Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond, the UK government minister in charge of the Treasury, is under fire from critics.
Last week, Hammond introduced his budget that included £2.8bn funding for frontline NHS services in England over the next three years. Crucially, though, and in my view shamefully, he did absolutely nothing to tackle the country’s care crisis.
Instead, he seems to be waiting for the social care consultation which the government has promised to publish next summer. This is planned to address the issue of long-term funding, but why wait? Let’s bring it forward six months.
Campaigners have welcomed the extra cash for the NHS but say it falls woefully short of what is needed.
Leading campaign group the MS Society said the £2.8bn over three years is well short of what’s needed. The society’s website says leading health experts estimate the NHS needs £4 billion next year alone to meet demand. What’s more, it says the funding gap is set to reach £20 billion by the end of 2022. So, Hammond’s extra cash is clearly a case of too little, too late.
MS Society chief executive Michelle Mitchell said: “This budget will come as a huge disappointment to people with MS. The additional NHS investment, while welcome, falls far short of the extra £4 billion a year health leaders say is needed. This risks undermining not only recent exciting developments in MS treatments, but also quality and access to NHS services.”
Social care system cannot cope
Turning to the care crisis, she said: “Unless the health and social care funding gap is addressed, people with MS, their families and carers will continue to pay the price for a system unable to cope with demand.”
This year, the society has campaigned together with health sector leaders, and other charities, calling on the government to urgently address the care crisis.
The government’s consultation may be next summer, but that does nothing to help people who need care today, it says.
Currently, it’s estimated that the social care funding needs an additional £2.5 billion for 2019/20 alone. However, the chancellor missed the opportunity to prove this government is committed to fixing the social care system.
Chancellor Hammond also announced a £1.5bn package to improve the much-criticised Universal Credit system. This includes the removal of the seven-day waiting period at the beginning of a benefit claim. What this means is that entitlement to Universal Credit will start on the day of the claim.
The MS Society says: “While this is a welcome change for new claimants to Universal Credit it doesn’t help anyone currently struggling with other benefits.
“We know people living with MS have lost at least £6 million per year in reduced support since Personal Independence Payment (PIP) was introduced.” Now, don’t get me started on PIP.
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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.