In today’s Autumn Statement, George Osborne confirmed that he will in effect be cutting £18.2bn from the NHS budget. This is the same NHS budget that in their manifesto, the Tories said;
We will continue to increase spending on the NHS, supported by a strong economy, so the NHS stays free for you to use, and spend at least an additional £8 billion by 2020 over and above inflation to fund and support the NHS’s own action plan for the next five years
And George Osborne would like you to think that that is what he is doing. He claimed today that he is giving an extra £3.8bn to the NHS budget next year. However, what he gives with one hand, he takes away with the other. The NHS is in huge debt, with every trust over spending this year in a unsuccessful attempt to meet waiting list targets. So far this year, the NHS has spent £2bn more than it’s budget – primarily due to increased spending on agency staff, and to ongoing budget cuts, and despite that waiting lists are growing longer. The NHS has projected that it needs £30bn by 2020 to get back up to scratch. Instead of funding the NHS properly though, George Osborne has told the NHS to somehow make £22bn in cost savings. So the combined result is that he wants £18.2bn less to be spent than is needed.
And the way that he wants the NHS to make savings is primarily by cutting back on the sort of preventative services which cost money in the short term, but save a fortune in the long term. The sort of thing we are talking about is staff training, helping people give up smoking, and sexual health programs. But by the time the impacts of cutting those corners is felt, the Tories may well be out of government, so it’s someone else’s problem. Mwhahaha.
The other thing that the government is doing to hurt the NHS is throwing 30,000 overseas nurses out of the country. And the reason for kicking them out is perversely because the government isn’t paying them enough. Under new rules, any foreign national earning less than £35,000 will be forced to leave after 6 years. Since 90% of nurses would be earning less than that, the NHS will have a staffing crisis, costing even more in recruitment costs (£6,000 per nurse), and in overtime and agency staff. The government’s own immigration rules are going to sink the NHS. But then, given the number of MPs with links to private health companies, perhaps that’s exactly what they want. Mwhahaha.