Labour right to predict a grim winter for the NHS, but one-off bung won't solve it

Nigel Edwards responds to the Labour Party’s call for a £500 million NHS winter bailout fund.

Press release

Published: 25/09/2017

Responding to the Labour Party’s call for a £500m NHS winter bailout fund, Nuffield Trust Chief Executive Nigel Edwards said:

“The NHS faces one of the toughest winters in its history. Last year hospitals were already stretched far beyond their capacity, with more than four thousand extra beds having to be opened [1]. Financially, trusts face a £6bn hole in their budgets this year [2]. Add a bad outbreak of flu into the picture, and the outlook is truly grim.

“However, a one-off financial bung is not going to solve these problems. The shortages of beds and staff have been years in the making, and cannot simply be reversed in a few months. We need a long term funding settlement for health and social care so that the NHS can actually plan on the basis of having enough resources. All political parties have been avoiding this question for too long [3].”

Notes to editors

[1] Our Winter Beds Pressure briefing analyses how full English NHS trusts were last winter, and tracks the extra beds they had to bring onstream.

[2] Our latest finance publication, The Bottom Line, calculates the underlying state of NHS trust finances, showing that the underlying deficit is £3.7bn as opposed to a reported figure of £791m, and that trusts began this year on course for an underlying deficit of £5.9bn.

[3] Our 2017 General Election finances paper showed that the pledges of all political parties before the election fell short even of a level which would keep NHS spending at the same proportion of national income as it is today. Their commitments fell far short of even our minimum calculation of what the Health Service would need.

[4] The Nuffield Trust is an independent health charity. We aim to improve the quality of health care in the UK by providing evidence-based research and policy analysis and informing and generating debate.