Measures to help cost of living welcome but pressures on NHS remain
23 March 2022
Responding to announcements in the spring statement by the Chancellor today, the deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery said:
"Today’s statement rightly focuses on Ukraine and the soaring cost of living crisis facing the nation with notable changes to fuel duty rates and the national insurance threshold.
"As collective employers of 1.4 million people, trust leaders are keenly aware of the spiralling costs their workforce is facing in their day to day lives.
"They are particularly worried about the impact on their younger and lower-paid staff who are likely to be hardest hit and who will need further financial support.
"Announcements today, including changes to the national insurance contributions threshold, will help mitigate against the rising cost of living.
"For example, we know that increasing fuel prices have had a real impact on key NHS staff, including community health teams. These staff travel thousands of miles every year to see patients in their own homes, often covering long distances in rural areas. While the 5p cut per litre is welcome, we are keen to see that they are better reimbursed for the petrol they buy through both mileage rate reimbursements and business tax relief.
"The chancellor was clear today about the strain on public finances and trust leaders are acutely aware of this. They know they have a clear duty and obligation to maximise taxpayer value because of the extra investment being made in the NHS, including the rise in national insurance contributions.
"Trusts are working hard to find efficiencies, reduce costs, and identify savings in the NHS given pressures on public spending and the extra investment in the health service given in the October Spending Review, which the Health and Care Levy will contribute to.
"While the national insurance threshold has been increased in the spring statement, trust leaders will be reassured that the NHS budget over the Spending Review period has not been reduced by a corresponding amount.
"Trusts remain concerned though about the scale of savings they will be expected to make given the significant operational pressures they are now facing.
"The need to tackle care backlogs while meeting rising demand for services, against a backdrop of ongoing pressures from COVID-19, widespread workforce shortages and staff burnout are all taking their toll on the health service.
"These pressures won’t go away anytime soon.
"The impact of inflationary pressures including energy and fuel costs will make their savings requirement even more stretching.
"Trusts will do all they can to realise the savings required but we need to be aware of how challenging the task is likely to be.
"We're still awaiting an announcement on Health Education England’s NHS education and training budget for 2022/23.
"Workforce shortages and the resulting unsustainable workload on existing NHS staff is the biggest problem facing the NHS right now. They can only be tackled with a robust long term workforce plan and increased longer term investment in workforce expansion, education and training, none of which is currently in place."