"The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it"
Aneurin Bevan

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Burnham Vindicated

Whenever Labour try to land a blow on Cameron over NHS funding, he always brings out the tired and incorrect statement that "we have protected the NHS budget; but Labour would have cut it". This is incorrect, but sadly Labour have failed to even both to refute it. I have given the details why this is incorrect on my NHS Future site.

The "evidence" for the Tory assertion comes from June 2010. Andy Burnham misinterpreted Cameron's pledge to "ringfence the NHS". Burnham (and, I suspect, most of the public) thought that would mean that the NHS would continue to get the real terms increases that is has had for the last 30 years. The Guardian reported this in July 2010:
He said he assumed the Conservative commitment on the spending would lead to extra NHS expenditure, amounting to more than 1% a year, coming to more than £4bn over the parliament, which would mean even larger reductions for schools and local government. 
Burnham, fully knowing that Osborne was intending to cut £80bn of public spending over the parliament spoke out saying that a 1% real terms increase for the NHS would mean cuts in social care, which themselves would affect the NHS:
"If this goes ahead [1% real terms increase in funding] they will hollow out social care to such a degree that the NHS will not be able to function anyway, because it will not be able to discharge people from hospital. If they persist with this councils will tighten their eligibility criteria even further for social care. There will be barely nothing left in some parts of the country, and individuals will be digging ever deeper into their own pockets for social care support."
Now we find that Andy Burnham was absolutely right. This week the Daily Telegraph reported:
New figures from the Department of Health show that the total number of days patients have been delayed in hospital has increased by 10 per cent in the last month. The problem – often referred to as "bed blocking" – has increased 29 per cent when compared with figures from August 2010. Patients are frequently delayed in hospital and cannot be discharged until suitable care has been arranged, either in a nursing home or in their own home, to aid their recovery. Councils have faced significant cuts to their budgets and experts have previously warned there would be a knock-on effect on the NHS. However, patients can also be delayed because they need to be transferred to other hospitals.
This is exactly the problem that Andy Burnham was highlighting in 2010: if the government cuts local authority funding this will mean that there will be less money for social care and the result will be increases in delayed discharges: bed blocking.

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