30 November 2014
Last updated at 12:12
George Osborne has told the BBC he will put an extra £2bn into frontline health services across the UK.
The chancellor said it was not a “one-off” but what he called a “down-payment on a long-term NHS plan”.
There would be no “unfunded giveaways”, he said, adding he could make the pledge because the economy was strong.
Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls said Labour would commit an extra £2.5bn above Mr Osborne’s plan adding that the NHS was “in real crisis”.
Mr Osborne’s pledge – to be officially announced in his Autumn Statement on Wednesday – comes after NHS bosses warned of a need for an extra £2bn funding, to cope with the immediate, unprecedented pressure on NHS budgets.
The chancellor told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show: “Because we have a strong economy and we’ve got the public finances under control, we can afford to put £2 billion into the frontline of the NHS across the United Kingdom.
“I can tell you we can go further and use those fines that have been paid by the banks for a permanent improvement in GP services.
“This is a down-payment on the NHS’s own long-term plan and it shows you can have a strong NHS if you have a strong economy.”
Further details are expected on Wednesday when Mr Osborne will update Parliament on his tax and spending plans, based on the latest predictions for the economy.
He rejected claims public services would suffer if funding was cut further and said he would outline how the UK would “stay the course to prosperity”.
“We shouldn’t face this false choice of either bankrupting the country or having decent public services,” he said.
But he added that “difficult decisions” might lie ahead on welfare – possibly freezing working age benefits, although he appeared to rule out cuts to pensioners’ benefits.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt will make a statement on Monday, in which he is expected to explain where the money is coming from.
About £1.3bn is thought to be new money, from savings in other departments, while around £700m will come from non-NHS parts of the Department of Health’s budget.
It is understood that around £1.7bn of that will go to NHS England, with the remainder going to the rest of the UK.
And it is thought that £1.1bn will be spent over the next Parliament from fines levied on banks for their attempted manipulation of foreign exchange rates.
Mr Hunt will also announce that the government is committed to implementing a five-year plan – NHS Forward View – unveiled by six national bodies last month. Many of the measures put forward are designed to curb the rise in hospital admissions and the impact of the ageing population.
The plans involve increasing spending on the health service by £8bn in real terms over the next Parliament.
Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, who drew up the proposals, said they had made the case to the chancellor that services were under pressure and “genuine new investment” was needed.
“Today they’ve listened and responded with the funding we need for next year to sustain frontline NHS services and kick-start transformation.
“Of course there will still be pressures and difficult choices, but the government has played its part and the NHS will step up and play our part too. Today represents an extremely welcome vote-of-confidence in the NHS’ own five year plan.” .
The NHS is a huge political issue with all the main parties pledging extra money in the future.
Shadow chancellor Ed Balls blamed the Conservatives for causing a crisis in the NHS through its re-organisation and questioned whether the money would be “an actual long-term investment in the nurses and doctors we need”.
He said it was a “typical Tory pattern” of a “winter crisis, and crisis money coming after it”.
Mr Balls said Labour’s proposed ‘mansion tax’ on properties worth £2m and over would raise the money to invest £2.5bn “over and above” the government’s spending plans into the health service.
Labour had called for an extra £1bn next year, paid for by banking industry fines.
The Conservatives’ coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, had called for an emergency injection of £1.5bn and a party spokesman said they had “fought to make sure that extra funding for the NHS next year is in the Autumn Statement”.
“The easy choice would have been to put off this decision until after the election for the next government to deal with, but that would have betrayed patients. The NHS needs this money urgently and we have acted in the national interest to make it a priority.”