The autumn statement was delivered in parliament today (22 November), with Chancellor Jeremy Hunt setting out the government’s funding priorities.
With the NHS in a desperate state after years of underfunding, and winter pressures once again mounting, the autumn statement provided an opportunity to change course.
However, the government has once again made the political choice to sideline the NHS and has failed to provide vital funding.
The NHS needs urgent investment now. Waiting lists continue to lengthen, nursing staff tell us of dangerously low staffing levels on every shift, and patients are regularly being treated in corridors.
We need an immediate cash injection to begin addressing these urgent issues, plus investment in long-term solutions to ensure our health service can recruit and retain the nursing staff it desperately needs. The RCN argues the cut to National Insurance by 2% from January will make only a marginal difference to nursing staff.
RCN Chief Nurse Professor Nicola Ranger said: “This statement was short-sighted, not long-term. The NHS faces a multi-billion pound deficit – giving away at least £5 billion in tax cuts in place of health spending confirms the NHS is no longer a priority for the government.
“The public sector cuts the Chancellor wants instead will mean even longer waits, more patients treated in corridors and perilous staffing levels here to stay. The real inefficiency to tackle is spending money on expensive agencies because you won’t invest in your own workforce – too few in education and poor pay and conditions pushing good people out. An extra £2 per shift from January will not turn this around.
“Jeremy Hunt squandered the opportunity to change course ahead of the next election and to support the NHS through the immensely tough winter on the horizon. Nursing staff are stretched too thin – caring for 10, 15 or more patients at a time. Our health service needed an urgent cash injection and instead it was entirely forgotten.”