£2bn Barnett windfall for NHS as May set to loosen purse strings
The Prime Minister is expected to announce a significant increase in funding for the NHS in coming days, which would be worth hundreds of millions of pounds to Scotland via the Barnett Formula.
Spending on the NHS in England would rise by between £4bn and £6bn a year by the end of the current parliament in a bid to ease the growing pressure on the health service from an ageing population and growing demand.
An announcement could be made as early as tomorrow, ahead of events to mark the 70th anniversary of the NHS on 5 July.
A study in the British Medical Journal by Dr Mark Hellowell of the Edinburgh University Global Health Policy Unit this week warned that without additional funding, the NHS would find it “increasingly difficult to maintain performance on several high-profile targets”.
There have also been renewed calls from the head of the health service in England, Simon Stevens, for NHS spending to grow by between 3.5 and 4 per cent a year from the average of 1.4 per cent over the past decade.
Mrs May is expected to pay for the increased spending with higher taxes, more borrowing and a promised “Brexit dividend” from the UK’s contribution to the EU budget.
The Treasury is reported to support plans to increase tax revenue by freezing thresholds for the personal allowance and additional 40p rate by 2020.
Downing Street declined to comment on reports.
Spending increases in the health service have effectively been capped since the Conservatives came to power in 2008. A new settlement has been subject to tough negotiation within the cabinet.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has highlighted the Prime Minister’s commitment to the NHS this week.
He said talks about a new funding settlement, including multi-year budgets for the health service to improve planning, were “difficult but ongoing”.
The YouGov survey for pressure group 38 Degrees found 73 per cent of those asked did not believe politicians were prepared to make difficult decisions about how to fund the NHS.
Some 66 per cent said they would be ready to pay an additional 1 per cent in income tax to fund the NHS. The figure includes 63 per cent of Conservatives.
A report yesterday by former UK health ministers Lord Darzi and Lord Prior argued the case for guaranteeing growth of around 3.5 per cent a year in health spending over the long term in order to make sure the NHS was fully funded.