Hammond rejects call for £4bn emergency NHS cash

Student nurses marching in defence of the NHS
Student nurses marching in defence of the NHS

TORY CHANCELLOR Philip Hammond has rejected calls for a £4bn emergency cash injection into the NHS, instead announcing that deeper cuts are necessary for the NHS budget ‘to get back on track.’

The call for more money has come from the head of NHS England, Simon Stevens, who said that an emergency cash injection of £4bn is urgently needed. Hammond also accused Stevens of failing to meet his ‘side of a bargain’ to enforce NHS ‘savings’. Stevens’ ‘savings’ outlined in his Five Year Forward View are being implemented through the Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STP), which include the closure of maternity departments, A&Es, children’s wards and entire hospitals across the length and breadth of the UK.

Hammond told the Andrew Marr show on Sunday: ‘That plan is not at the moment being delivered. We need to get it back on track . . . in the run-up to Budget, people running all kinds of services, government departments come to see us and they always have very large numbers that are absolutely essential, otherwise Armageddon will arrive.

‘I don’t contest for one moment that the NHS is under pressure. We have been doing some very careful work with the Department of Health, with the NHS, to look at where those pressures are, to look at the capital needs of the NHS, to look at where the particular pressure points around targets are. And we will seek to address those in a sensible and measured and balanced way.’

The widening split between Stevens and Hammond was clear earlier this month when Stevens said: ‘As I have told parliament on many occasions, for the next three years we did not get the funding the NHS had requested. So 2018, which happens to be the 70th anniversary of the NHS, is poised to be the toughest financial year.’

Meanwhile, NHS England has asked GPs to do home visits throughout the morning to avoid ‘surges’ of patients arriving at A&E the afternoons. GPs have rubbished the idea as so many surgeries across the country are either threatened with closure because of funding cuts, or are so short staffed and with so such long patient lists that they cannot cope with the workload.

The idea that on top of the crisis GPs are already facing, they could do all their home visits in the morning GPs rightly insist is unworkable. In a letter to CCGs, NHS England directors have asked GPs to ‘have plans in place to run visits throughout the morning, as opposed to batching them’ in an effort to reduce ambulance handover delays.

Dr Peter Swinyard, chair of the Family Doctor Association, said planning to do early home visits ‘just doesn’t work’, with visits done on the day of request making planning difficult. He said: ‘The problem is that people are not very good at ringing requesting home visits earlier in the morning and visit requests come in throughout the day, however much you tell patients that you would like to have them in by 10 o’clock or 11 o’clock in the morning.’

He added: ‘It’s a little bit bizarre to say, well can’t you go and do your visits at 10 o’clock in the morning, when the patients aren’t even asking for them until 11 o’clock. It’s unrealistic.’