Defiant NHS chief rejects government's health service funding claims

Comments from NHS England chief executive prompt former Treasury permanent secretary Nick Macpherson to warn of a "bottomless pit" on health service funding

By Seb Whale

12 Jan 2017

The head of NHS England has publicly contradicted Theresa May’s claim that the government is providing the health service with more funding than it requires.

Stevens argued it would be “stretching it” to say the NHS has received more cash than it asked for and said hospitals are facing “substantial pressures”.

The NHS chief also suggested ministers were misleading the public over claims that extra money had been earmarked for the health service.

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His comments, to the Public Accounts Committee, came after it was reported that May's aides believe he has been insufficiently enthusiastic and responsive amid the mounting crisis on NHS wards.

The prime minister on Sunday claimed the government has met and exceeded demands for funding outlined in NHS England's five-year forward view.

But Stevens said that the health service would have received £10bn in pledged funding by 2020, but spread across six years, rather than five as claimed by the Conservatives.

Mr Stevens said: "I don't think that's the same as saying we're getting more than we asked for over five years, because it was a five-year forward view not a six-year forward view.

"And over and above that, we obviously had a Spending Review negotiation in the meantime and that has set the NHS budget for the next three years...

"Like probably every part of the public service we got less than we asked for in that process. So I think it would be stretching it to say the NHS has got more than it asked for."

When pressed by committee chair Meg Hillier whether there is a "clear gap" between what the NHS is taking in versus what it needs, he replied: "There are clearly very substantial pressures, and I don't think it helps anybody to try and pretend that there aren't.

"But that's not a new phenomenon to some extent. It is a phenomenon that is intensifying."

He added: "I do believe there are some very genuine choices to be made across the NHS and there is a circle to be squared. I think that's right."

Reacting to Stevens' appearance, former Treasury permanent secretary Sir Nick Macpherson – who was in post at the finance ministry during the 2015 Spending Review negotiations – said Stevens was a "good guy" but "should not determine health spending".

Macpherson tweeted: "NHS bottomless pit. Money should be linked to reform."


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