Association statement on the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Autumn Budget (and Spending Review)
Wednesday 27 October 2021
The Chancellor of the Exchequer delivered his Autumn Budget (and Spending Review) statement to MPs today. A number of health-related funding announcements were made, including:
- £5.9 billion capital investment for the NHS to tackle the backlog of non-emergency procedures and modernise digital technology
- £2.3 billion of this will go to diagnostic services, with at least 100 community diagnostic centres across England.
- £1.5 billion for new surgical hubs, increased bed capacity and equipment to help elective services recover, including surgeries and other medical procedures.
- £4.2 billion over the next three years for 40 new hospitals and over 70 hospital upgrades.
- On workforce, the Budget says “The government will provide hundreds of millions of pounds in additional funding to underpin... funding the training of some of the biggest undergraduate intakes of medical students and nurses ever.”
- A restated commitment to recruiting 50,000 more nurses and providing 50 million more appointments in primary care.
- £500 million from the already-announced £5.4bn to reform adult social care (raised through the Health and Social Care Levy) to fund an unprecedented investment in the skills, qualifications and wellbeing of the social care workforce.
The Association of Anaesthetists welcomes the funding to tackle the backlog, but has been calling on the Government to also tackle long-term workforce challenges in anaesthesia, to take urgent action to ensure adequate funding is in place to support the workforce now, and ensure the workforce is fit for the future. If this action is not taken, the Association is concerned that the Government’s ambitions to tackle waiting lists will not be met safely or in good time.
Responding to the Chancellor’s Budget statement, Dr Mike Nathanson, President of the Association of Anaesthetists said:
“The announcement of capital funding to help clear the NHS backlog is welcome, and we look forward to seeing more detail, particularly about where exactly the money will be spent.
“What is clear is that there is a major, long-term workforce challenge that cannot be ignored. The pressure on the NHS is extraordinary and unprecedented. We continue to face significant shortages across anaesthesia, shortages that pre-date the pandemic. There is presently an anaesthesia workforce shortage of over 1,000, and fixing this is vital if the backlog is to be managed and cleared. Surgery and anaesthesia are intimately linked and there can be no increase in surgery without an increase in anaesthesia. We are calling on the Government to use this new funding to invest in recruiting and retaining anaesthetists.
“And yet, even with these well-documented shortages, there are over 700 potential trainee anaesthetists across the UK to help alleviate these pressures, but they were not given posts this year due to a lack of available places. The Association has been calling on the Governments to increase training places so we don’t lose these doctors from the profession. The funding announced today should be used to fund these places.
“Anaesthetists, like all across other specialities in the NHS, went above and beyond during the pandemic, and always stand ready to do so, such is their professionalism and commitment – but they need more, and better, support. We are calling on the Government to make sure they get it.”