Health and Social Care Budgets — [Mr Adrian Bailey in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:30 am on 14th March 2017.

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Photo of Meg Hillier Meg Hillier Chair, Public Accounts Committee, Chair, Public Accounts Committee 9:30 am, 14th March 2017

One concern that our Committee has uncovered is the pressure to make 4% efficiency savings. That figure was used in the last Parliament, but has now been acknowledged to be too stiff a target. However, we are also seeing a move to 4% efficiency savings in STPs. That is challenging to achieve while going through transformation. One would expect the Public Accounts Committee to be no slouch in considering where efficiencies can be found, but even with efficiencies there is just not enough money in the system. It is being squeezed.

One welcome aspect of the Budget—I hope that the Minister can give us more detail—is that there will be a Green Paper later in the year on the future funding of social care; again, I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield South East will want to talk more about that. There are also other bits of money: £100 million to support 100 new on-site GP triage projects at accident and emergency departments in hospitals in time for next winter; £325 million in capital funding to support the implementation of sustainability and transformation plans that are ready to proceed; and a multi-year capital programme for health. That all sounds like a lot of money, but relative to the total NHS budget, it is a very small amount, and the concern is that it is not long-term and sustainable. That is what our Committee said. A long-term plan is necessary for funding the NHS.

After looking at this year’s accounts, we are concerned about the number of trusts in deficit; perhaps the Minister can update us on that. As of month 9 of this financial year, 74 of 238 trusts were in deficit, to the tune of £886 million total. Granted, that is less than the £2.5 billion last year, but it is still not a healthy situation. Raiding capital funds to pay for resource and other such measures is just not acceptable in the long term.