The government’s decision to end real terms spending increases on the health service could mean that the NHS will be losing out on £25.5 billion a year by the end of the decade, the Trades Unuin Congress' (TUC) All Together for the NHS campaign has warned.
The TUC calculation is based on NHS England’s own projections of zero real terms increases in government spending until the end of the decade.
The analysis was released on by the union campaign on the 66th anniversary of the creation of the NHS (5 July), and at the end of the week that saw health workers from across England lobby MPs in Westminster and their constituencies about pay and the chronic underfunding of the health service.
The analysis considers forecast spending on the NHS over the next Parliament (from 2015-2020) compared to the position the health service would have been in at the end of the decade had health spending resumed growth at the same pace as during the last Parliament (2005-2010) when there was a 21 per cent increase in spending in real terms.
With spending on the NHS projected to increase only in line with inflation, this real terms freeze in funding means that although the economy is growing again, health spending is not – meaning that the health service is likely to miss out to the tune of billions of pounds a year by 2020, says the TUC.
Health workers are angry that funding shortfalls have already meant massive cuts in services, a four-year pay freeze across the NHS and the loss of thousands of posts.
They want the government to honour the recommendations of the independent NHS pay review body which said that all health workers in England should receive a one per cent cost of living pay rise. Health unions are unhappy that ministers have chosen to ignore this advice and only plan to give a one per cent increase to those NHS workers at the top of their pay scales.
Commenting on behalf of the All Together for the NHS campaign, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The economy might be growing again, but the government continues to deny the NHS the funding increases it so desperately needs to run a health service fit for the 21st century.
“Health workers are upset that having accepted a pay freeze during the dark days of the recession, ministers are set on holding down NHS pay, even though the economy is now picking up.
“It may be NHS staff taking the hit in their pay packets now, but if the health service is going to be losing out on funding to the tune of a cool £25.5 billion by the end of the decade, it will soon be patients paying the price.
“Morale is at a low ebb, and as health service employees feel increasingly like they are being taken for granted, it will make it harder for the NHS to recruit and retain skilled staff. This is bound to affect the quality of care at a time when patients are already facing increased waiting times and a reduction in staffing.”