The Prime Minister has said the NHS is to be given a “birthday present” of an extra £20 billion a year in funding annually by 2023, and argued technology must be a crucial part of driving productivity improvements over the next decade.
When questioned on the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday about what she would be “bringing to the party” ahead of the NHS’s 70th birthday on 5 July, Theresa May confirmed the NHS will receive an extra £20bn a year.
This means the current £114bn budget will rise by an average of 3.4% annually.
May said the extra funding will help “secure” the NHS’s future.
In a speech in at the Royal Free Hospital on Monday, May offered more detail on the funding settlement. She said the NHS is “this government’s number one spending priority”, and that in due course the government and NHS would work together to develop a 10 year plan for the service.
She added: “This must be a plan that ensures every penny is well spent. It must be a plan that tackles waste, reduces bureaucracy and eliminates unacceptable variation, with all these efficiency savings reinvested back into patient care.
“It must be a plan that makes better use of capital investment to modernise its buildings and invest in technology to drive productivity improvements. It must be a plan that enjoys the support of NHS staff across the country – not something dreamt up in Whitehall and centrally imposed.”
May also said that one of the priorities of the NHS’ ten-year-plan will be “harnessing the power of innovation”.
She said technology was “transforming how we engage with the NHS” and it can “improve the way care is delivered”.
May said: “Put simply, our long-term plan for the NHS needs to view technology as more than supporting what the NHS is doing already.
“It must expand the boundaries of what the NHS can do in the future in the fastest, safest and most ambitious way possible.”
On the topic of where the extra money is coming from, the Prime Minister said it will be it will be partly funded by an increase in taxes, on which the chancellor will “set out the detail in due course”.
But she also said it would be covered in part by the so-called “Brexit dividend”, which follows the £350m per week for the NHS famously advertised on the side of Vote Leave’s campaign bus.
The concept of a “Brexit dividend” has been widely criticised, with health and social care select committee chair and former GP Sarah Wollaston calling it “tosh”.
Speaking in parliament later on Monday, Health and Social Care Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, told MPs that he was “sympathetic” to the idea of the potential of ring-fencing transformation funding.
He said: “Transformation funding is also important, because when the five year forward view was published, pressures in secondary care and the acute sector meant that a lot of transformation funding was sucked into the hospital sector and we were not able to focus on the really important prevention work that can transform services in the long run.
“I am very sympathetic to the idea that we need, if not a formal ring fence, a pretty strong ring fence for transformation funding, so that the really exciting progress that we see in some parts of the country can start to spread everywhere.”
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