Published: Wed, June 20, 2018
Health Care | By Gwendolyn Kim

PM told to come clean on funding source for NHS boost

PM told to come clean on funding source for NHS boost

British Prime Minister Theresa May pledged on Sunday (Jun 17) to increase funding for the National Health Service (NHS) by 20 billion pounds (US$26.57 billion) after Brexit, partly from tax hikes and partly from money that will no longer be going to the European Union.

Theresa May insisted in a speech at the weekend that savings could be made once the United Kingdom was no longer paying annual membership subscriptions to the European Union and this could be diverted to the NHS.

The health service in Northern Ireland is set to benefit from around £600m extra funding a year in real terms by 2023.

Speaking to Sky News, the health and social care secretary repeated Theresa May's comments that a "Brexit dividend" will contribute to the increase, and insisted the rise would "not depend on this or that level of economic growth".

Mrs May also defied critics of her claim that leaving the European Union could help fund the 3.4% increase NHS by insisting that some of the money will come from a "Brexit dividend". "She won't stand up to vested interests and is instead asking patients to rely on a hypothetical Brexit dividend". And the chief executives of three major health trusts have issued similar letters to Chancellor Philip Hammond and the PM.

He said the financial settlement with the EU, plus the UK's commitments to replace EU funding, "already uses up all of our EU contributions" for the next few years.

"When we leave we won't be doing that".

Commons Health Committee chairwoman Sarah Wollaston said she was sad to see the Government "slide to populist arguments" as people were being "treated like fools".

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There will also be more cash to cover a pensions gap in the NHS.

She noted: "I'm one of those people who have had their lives saved by the NHS".

"Actually the public finances will be £15 billion or so worse off [after Brexit], not better off, so there really just isn't money there for a Brexit dividend". "This will make it harder to have a rational debate about the "who & how" of funding & sharing this fairly".

She continued: "despite more funding, more doctors and more nurses, and great progress on treatments, our NHS is under strain". "By the end of the meeting, some sources of funding had been more heavily pencilled in than others", a ministerial source said.

"We remain deeply concerned about the impact of Brexit on the NHS and need a commitment that any post-Brexit trade deals the United Kingdom enters into must not open up our NHS to privatisation or endanger public health initiatives - that simply can not and must not be allowed to happen".

The Health Secretary told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that they 'are clear that there will be an increased burden of taxation'.

Her claim that a "Brexit dividend" will pay for part of the increase in spending was widely attacked as unrealistic - even by some Conservatives.

While welcoming the £20.5bn-a-year boost, the group says Brexit "poses the biggest risk to our health service in its history" and the public should get a vote on the final deal struck with Brussels.

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