An influential group of MPs have accused the government of abusing statistics in its claim that the NHS will be allocated an extra £10bn in funding over the next five years.
The Health Committee, which is led by Conservative MP Dr Sarah Wollaston, has written to the chancellor to the chancellor to say using the figure of £10bn gives the “false impression that the NHS is awash with cash” at a time when it is underfunded and under strain. They say the real figure is closer to £4.5bn, under half of the advertised amount.
The committee says the headline figure can only be reached by changing the start-date from which the increase is calculated, adding an extra year to the spending review period, and the funds in a large part come from other parts of the health budget – leaving them now further underfunded.
The letter reads:
“The continued use of the figure of £10bn for the additional health spending up to 2020-21 is not only incorrect but risks giving a false impression that the NHS is awash with cash. This figure is often combined with a claim that the government ‘has given the NHS what it asked for’. Again, this claim does not stand up to scrutiny as NHS England spending cannot be seen in isolation from other areas of health spending.”
The letter’s other signatories are Conservative MP and family physician Dr James Davies, Labour’s former health minister Ben Bradshaw, Labour MP Emma Reynolds, and Scottish National Party MP and NHS breast cancer specialist Dr Philippa Whitford.
Billions in extra investment for the NHS was a central promise in the Conservative party’s election manifesto. The £10bn figure was published by former chancellor George Osborne in his budget last year and has since been reiterated by Theresa May.