The Government has announced plans to pass legislation that will protect the already promised £34bn NHS funding boost due by 2023/24.
In the Queen’s speech yesterday (19 December), proposals were unveiled to enshrine the £20.5bn promised by former Prime Minister Theresa May – equivalent to an extra £33.9bn in cash terms – in law.
The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) said the legal commitment was a ‘relief and necessity’ and called on the Government to put general practice at the heart of any future NHS plans.
Addressing Parliament, the Queen said that the Government will take legal steps to ensure recurrent funding is unlocked on a yearly basis for the NHS.
She said: ‘For the first time, the national health service’s multi-year funding settlement, agreed earlier this year, will be enshrined in law.
‘Steps will be taken to grow and support the national health service’s workforce and a new visa will ensure qualified doctors, nurses and health professionals have fast-track entry to the United Kingdom. Hospital car parking charges will be removed for those in greatest need.’
At the start of the year, the Government said primary and community care would receive a £4.5bn funding boost by 2023/24 as part of the NHS long-term plan’s £20.5bn investment.
‘We now need detail’
RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall said that the pledge must include resources for general practice.
He said: ‘The commitment in law to fund the NHS is both a relief and a necessity. We now need detail and we need general practice to feature prominently in any plans for the future of our health service.’
He added: ‘The secretary of state for health and social care has described general practice as the “bedrock of the NHS” and it is – we hope these words, and the Government’s pledges, will be followed by the funding and resources necessary to deliver more GPs, more members of the practice team, and more support for frontline GPs, delivering care to more than a million patients every day.’
Money ‘falls short’
BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘While it’s encouraging to see NHS funding guaranteed in law, the BMA has been clear that the money pledged by the government falls short of what’s needed to make up for years of underinvestment and to meet the rising health needs of Britain in the future.’
Dr Nagpaul stressed the ‘urgent’ change to legislation required to deal with ongoing pension tax charge issues, which has caused some doctors to reduce shifts.
But the BMA warned the commitment will fall short of £6.2bn per year.