Theresa May ‘in denial’ over NHS financial woes
Theresa May was in denial about the extent of the NHSs financial problems and should accept that its sums just do not add up, the government spending watchdog has claimed.
Meg Hillier, the chair of the Commons public accounts committee, wrote in a letter to the prime minister on Thursday that growing evidence disproved her insistence that the NHS was getting enough money.
Hillier, the MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch, also accused NHS bosses, including its chief executive, Simon Stevens, of not telling May the truth about how grim the health services finances were.Meg Hillier. Photograph: Jonathan Goldberg/Rex
Hillier is the second select committee chair this week to dispute the accuracy of Mays assertions that the NHS in England would receive 10bn extra funding by 2020-21 and that it was getting all the money it said it needed.
Earlier this week, the government rebutted the health select committees detailed critique of government statements about NHS funding, the accuracy of which is increasingly being challenged.
In nine reports and multiple hearings we have had on the NHS this calendar year, concerns about the sustainability of the budget were very clear, Hillier wrote.
As you are aware, concerns have also been raised by the chair of the health select committee, Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, in her letter to the chancellor of the exchequer on 26 October. I was dismayed that the official government response was to deny there was any issue. This flies in the face of the evidence that our committees and the National Audit Office have uncovered.
Hillier added that growing demand for patient care and a reliance on expensive agency staff, due to budget restrictions stopping trusts hiring permanent workers, were behind the NHSs financial problems, rather than overspending by hospitals.
The Guardian revealed last month that, at their first meeting on 8 September, May told Stevens that the service would get no extra money in the autumn statement and that it should focus on becoming more efficient.
In an apparent reference to that meeting, Hillier said: Too often NHS personnel raising concerns find themselves pariahs in the system. There is a long list of formal whistleblowers who have never worked in the NHS again as a result of their willingness to raise their concerns. I fear that this lack of willingness to talk truth to those in charge extends right up to No 10.
In an annex to the letter, summarising evidence the committee has heard this year about how lack of money is affecting various NHS services, Hillier told May: Taken as a whole, the current situation and the current budget just do not add up.
May is under fire for saying the government is giving the NHS 10bn extra, allegedly 2bn more than it requested. However, Stevens has dismissed the 10bn figure and also warned that underfunding may force NHS bosses to ration care and close some hospital units.
A No 10 spokesperson said: Our commitment to the NHS is clear, that is why we have taken steps to ensure the NHS has the money it needs, with an increase in real term funding of 10bn by 2021. Weve already taken steps to make sure the NHS has the money it needs with 4bn extra this year alone. NHS leaders told us this was the funding they needed and we delivered. Its simply not true to suggest otherwise.