£6 billion of NHS Investment? The Devil’s in the Detail

Matthew Spencer

Senior Account Manager

For the Government’s most ardent supporters, Tuesday’s budget was “sensible”. Ed Davey said it was “all smoke and mirrors” and Keir Starmer declared it “the last desperate act of a party that had failed”.

On the NHS, the Government’s commitments read more like a “buy now, pay later” credit card statement. A flashy £6 billion headline but nothing on workforce, certainly nothing on the new hospitals programme and definitely nothing before the next General Election.

Final Budgets before a General Election are particularly susceptible to accounting gymnastics, and the grand reveal of a new NHS Productivity Plan, is some of the treasury’s finest work. If you do the hard work of getting through the first 70 pages of the Budget Statement, you will find clearly outlined the grand sum of £0 million allocated by the Government for “NHS Investment” in 2024/25.

If you read a little further, you will find that, of the £3.4 billion committed to the NHS for digital transformation, only £2.6 billion is new funding, with all of it allocated for the period between 2025 and 2028. A pretty handsome bill to leave on the Treasury desk of any new Government.

While the Government was very happy to breakdown how it would spend this money in 18 months’ time, it gave no detail on how it would spend the £2.5 billion that it has ear marked for “day to day NHS spending”. When viewed against the £900 million of NHS England capital budgets that was repurposed to pay for strikes in 2023, it is inevitable that much of this “day to day spending” will go towards plugging existing funding gaps, rather than delivering meaningful change in the system.

Although the funding package seems an attractive one, the Conservatives will hope that the electorate won’t dig too deeply into the detail of this Budget. If there we’re no “rabbits out of hats” for the NHS in the Budget, don’t expect any more before the next General Election. The Conservative Government have said everything they can on the NHS, and they will now win or lose votes on the promised £6 billion for digital transformation and the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan. The question is, after 14 years of Conservative Government, will voters back them to make good on their word?

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