The Chancellor of the Exchequer has announced a handful of measures to alleviate the worst pressures in the NHS and social care in the Budget – but was widely criticised for not doing enough.
Philip Hammond’s Budget included a commitment to inject £2bn into adult social care spending over the next three years, with £1bn available in 2017-18.
The Chancellor announced £325m of new capital funding to support the “strongest” Sustainability and Transformation Plans.
And a capital investment of £100m was outlined specifically for accident and emergency departments.
The money will be used to develop an urgent treatment centre in every A&E in England.
Hammond said the money “will enable trusts to invest in measures to help manage demand on A&E services”, and he gave the example of “onsite GP facilities”.
Dr Chris Moulton, Vice President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said: “We cautiously welcomes the extra £100m to be spent on A&E triage schemes in time for next winter, provided it is used appropriately. For some time, we have called for co-location of urgent care services around major A&E departments and having primary care on site will undoubtedly benefit patients.
“The College would like to see this as the first step to co-locating more services, including frailty teams and out-of-hours mental health teams, around the A&E department. By creating a hub of services, patients can be swiftly directed to the treatment or service most appropriate for their needs, without the need to travel elsewhere or book another appointment.”
On STPs, the Chancellor said the £325m investment will be spread over three years, with further funding expected to be announced in the autumn budget.
However, the increase has been described as “very modest” by experts, considering the significant capital requirements set out in STP documents.
Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair, said: “This budget does nothing to address the gaping hole in NHS finances. There is a £30bn gap to fill and we should be increasing the UK’s health spending by at least £10.3bn to match that of other leading European economies.
“The NHS and social care are at breaking point and have been failed by party politics for too long. We need politicians from all sides to come together to agree a long-term solution to the challenges facing health and social care.”
On social care, Hammond said the government will publish a green paper later in the year on how the sector should be funded going forward.
Chris Ham, Chief Executive of The King’s Fund, said: “The additional money is welcome recognition of the huge pressures facing social care. It will provide some short-term relief for older and disabled people, families and carers who are being let down by the current system.
“The plan to publish a green paper on the future of social care funding is encouraging, but we have been here before. This time, the government must break the mould and deliver the radical reforms that are so badly needed.”