Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled the contents of his second Budget of the year on Wednesday, 27 October, alongside a spending review detailing how the government will fund public services for the next three years. Importantly, the Budget and Spending Review sets out how delivering real-world improvements to the day-to-day public services is at the heart of building a strong future economy for the UK as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sunak had previously signalled that supporting the health and social care systems was one of the government’s top priorities, with a sharp focus on COVID-19 recovery, the delivery of improved health outcomes, reduced waiting lists, future-proofing technology, and building a bigger, better trained NHS workforce. This Spending Review delivers the highest real-term core capital budget for health since 2010, granting the NHS 44% of the total spend in this budget review.

The good news is that the NHS has been clearly prioritized by the government over many other key departments and areas of priority, such as education.  Both capital funding and upgrading and modernizing digital health within the NHS should contribute to greater efficiency in the NHS and ultimately, better patient outcomes. The NHS has much work to catch up on post-pandemic and so this extra funding will allow it to be agile and forward-looking over the next few years.  Whilst staff spending has not increased, the rise in the minimum wage will help across the system.  Although spending on the NHS is never enough to meet its ever-growing needs, with an ageing population, this budget at least allows it to stabilize and plan ahead in the wake of the biggest health crisis it has seen in decades.

Healthcare sector budget updates in detail:

  • £9.6 billion for COVID-19 related health spending, so that the NHS can continue to respond to and mitigate the impacts of the virus.
  • £8 billion for a major catch up programme that will help the NHS to provide elective care that was delayed by the pandemic, supported by £5.9 billion for the NHS to tackle the backlog of non-emergency procedures and modernise digital technology.
  • £4.2 billion over the SR21 period to make progress on building 40 new hospitals by 2030 and to upgrade more than 70 hospitals.
  • £2.3 billion to transform diagnostic services, with at least 100 new Community Diagnostics Centres in England over the next three years to make healthcare testing more accessible to local communities.
  • £2.1 billion over the SR21 period for innovative use of digital technology so hospitals and other care organisations are as connected and efficient as possible.
  • £1.5 billion over the SR21 period for new surgical hubs, increased bed capacity and equipment to help elective services recover, including surgeries and other medical procedures.
  • £300 million over the SR21 period to complete the programme to replace mental health dormitories with single en suite rooms, in addition to £150 million to invest in NHS mental health facilities linked to A&E and to enhance patient safety in mental health units.
  • Hundreds of millions of pounds in additional funding to ensure a bigger and better trained NHS workforce, including the Government’s commitment to recruiting 50,000 new nurses.
  • The largest-ever cash uplift for health R&D, which will support the UK’s world-leading research to develop new pioneering treatments. Amongst other things, this will support the UK’s world-leading genomics industry, including Generation Genome, a new pioneering newborn screening programme to detect over 200 rare diseases, and ‘Diverse Data’, to increase the representation of minority groups in genomic research.
  • £5.4 billion of additional funding to reform adult social care was announced in September. The spending review confirms £3.6 billion will go to local government to implement the cap on personal care costs and changes to the means test and £1.7 billion over three years to improve the wider social care system, including the quality and integration of care.

The Statement documents can be downloaded here.