If you’re more sensible and more interesting than me, you probably haven’t looked through the thrilling contribution to world literature that is the Spring 2017 Budget.
For those who might still be interested in what our Government plans to do to healthcare spending but don’t have the time or inclination to read all 68 pages of figures, here’s a quick summary of the three healthcare related bits.
(1) £2 billion more for social care
While the NHS is struggling at the moment, social care currently looks like a Curly-Wurly being stretched between two hungry toddlers. Given that, the extra £2bn pledged over three years by Philip Hammond is welcome.
However, it’s estimated social care will need £2.8bn by 2019-20 so unless some more money can be found, or radical new policy solutions are found, social care is likely to be struggling for a while.
(2) £100 million for new facilities in A&E
A&E is in a perpetual state of just about managing, with January 2017 the worst month on record for waiting times. 15% of people had to wait longer than 4 hours to be seen, while the government target is 5%. Whether or not new facilities will stop people waiting longer, having £100 million of new buildings is nicer than not having £100 million to spend on new buildings.
Luckily, the idea proposed by the chancellor – having facilities for GPs to work in A&E – is not mandatory. While in principal having GPs in A&E to help triage patients is not a terrible idea, we don’t currently have enough GPs to fill jobs in GP practices. Transferring some of them to A&E and further exacerbating a community shortage doesn’t seem like the smartest move.
(3) £325 million for locally proposed capital investments.
The Department of Health’s latest wheeze is to get local NHS organisations to restructure themselves using ‘Sustainability and Transformation Plans’. Essentially, this means the NHS has been divided into 44 areas each with it’s own plan for how to make local services address local needs.
While local solutions are great and I’ll advocate localism as a solution for most things, they do allow Jeremy Hunt to say ‘well it’s your own plan’ when something goes wrong, which is probably the main reason they exist. Whatever the motivations, there’s going to be £325 million for local teams to bid for to build new facilities.
However, part of the criteria to receive the money is whether ‘the local NHS area is playing its parts in raising proceeds from unused land to reinvest in local services’. So effectively the policy is ‘sell some of your land, we’ll give you some money’ – which is an interesting way to encourage local creativity.
(3.5) 850 PhDs in Science, Technology and Maths
Not strictly a healthcare related bit, but additional funding for science PhDs is always a welcome thing. Investing in science and engineering always results in future benefits, and the Government has frequently said how much it values scientific research, so its good to see them putting their money where their mouth is.
That’s your lot. Nothing too horrendous, but nothing that’s going to radically change health or social care. Though Phillip Hammond has repeatedly said he’s going to make autumn the time when big money changes are made, so perhaps we’ll some more exciting things then.