Newly-appointed Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged to invest an extra £1.8 billion in the NHS, of which Newcastle hospitals will see £41.7 million.
The lion’s share of this cash injection will be spent on repairing 20 hospitals around the UK that are in the greatest need. According to the official UK Prime Minister Twitter account, the extra funding will also be used to “boost the frontline by automating admin tasks and freeing up staff to care for patients.” In Newcastle specifically, the cash injection will be used to improve paediatric cardiac services. Newcastle NHS expenditure for the last financial year was £1.03 billion, an increase of approximately £30 million from 2017. Theresa May came under fire in 2017 for infamously telling a nurse who saw a real term decrease in their salary over eight years that there was “no magic money tree” to provide further funding.
To fulfill his Brexit bus pledges, Johnson would need to commit to an annual increase of £18.2bn
However, Johnson seems to have found the money tree, or money sapling at least, as his proposal has faced criticism for being too slight. Jeremy Corbyn was quick to point out that if Johnson had followed through on his Brexit bus pledge to fund the NHS with the £350 million sent to Brussels every week, far more than £1.8 billion (which is less than 6 weeks’ worth of the sum plastered onto the bus in 2016) would be required. In fact, to really put his money where his mouth is, Johnson would have had to have committed to an annual increase of £18.2 billion. Many opponents have suggested that this funding is a drop in the ocean for the NHS which suffers from a funding gap running in the tens of billions. Further suggestion has been made that much of Johnson’s investment comes from money recycled from NHS cuts made by previous Conservative governments. Moreover, the Department for Health and Social Care annual budget for 2019/20 is £133.9 billion, meaning Johnson’s pledge is an investment of just over 1.3%.
Any increased investment in the NHS will have positive ramifications for the health and wellbeing of the country, however whether this latest spate of funding launched by Johnson will be enough to pull the NHS out of a funding crisis remains to be seen.