30 November 2014
Last updated at 02:38
Chancellor George Osborne is to announce an extra £2bn for the health service across the UK next year.
Mr Osborne will use his Autumn Statement on Wednesday to announce the extra funding for frontline services.
The government can pay for it because of the “growing” economy and its “tight control” of finances, he will say.
Labour blamed the Conservatives for the NHS’s “fragile” finances, saying it would “rescue” it with a £2.5bn-a-year fund, on top of Tory spending plans.
Mr Osborne’s pledge comes after NHS bosses warned of a need for extra funds to keep the NHS going and maintain standards of care.
They along with analysts had said £2bn extra was needed to cope with the immediate, unprecedented pressure on NHS budgets.
Mr Osborne is to say the extra money – from April next year – will be invested in frontline services, to support the day-to-day work of nurses, doctors and other NHS staff.
It will also be used to buy new facilities and make the health service more efficient for taxpayers and more effective for patients, he is expected to say.
“Here’s a simple truth: You can’t have a strong NHS without a strong economy to pay for it. If you don’t have a long term plan for the economy, you don’t have a plan for the future of the NHS,” he will say.
“We have both. It’s because our economy is growing, and we’ve kept a tight control on the finances, that we can do more for the NHS.”
Confirming the funds, he will say: “This will support the day-to-day work of our incredible nurses, doctors and other NHS staff; but it is also a down-payment on the future of our health service.”
Details of how the chancellor will pay for it will be given in the statement, which is his update on tax and spending plans based on the latest predictions for the economy.
BBC political correspondent Carole Walker understands some of the funds will come from underspending in other departmental budgets.
She described the cash injection as a “significant announcement”.
Mr Osborne will also endorse a five-year plan – NHS Forward View – unveiled by six national bodies last month.
Many of the measures put forward are designed to curb the rise in hospital admissions and the impact of the ageing population – the source of most pressure in the health service.
The chancellor has been discussing the plan with Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, who drew up the proposals.
Mr Osborne is expected to say: “I endorse this Forward View as the way to deliver a world class and universal NHS that is sustainable for the long term.”
Mr Stevens has said the NHS is at a “crossroads” and warned of an £8bn funding shortfall by the end of the next parliament.
But he said there was no reason a tax-funded service could not continue if the five-year plan was followed.
Last week the King’s Fund health think tank called for the NHS in England to be given £2bn more next year.
BBC health editor Hugh Pym said at the time that, as far as NHS England chiefs were concerned, a £2bn injection next year was the minimum needed to keep the service going without cuts to staffing and lower quality care.
The NHS is a huge political issue with all the main parties pledging extra money in the future.
The Liberal Democrats had called for an emergency injection of £1.5bn.
‘Worse in store’
Labour had called for an extra £1bn next year, paid for by banking industry fines. It had also said that it would add £2.5bn per year to the NHS budget over the course of the next parliament, should it gain power at the next election. This would be part-funded by its proposed mansion tax.
Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said: “David Cameron chose to put NHS finances on a knife edge when he wasted £3bn on a damaging reorganisation. That’s why the NHS is in today’s fragile financial position.
“This is exactly the same pattern we saw under the last Tory government: winter crises, followed by emergency bailouts.
“Labour will rescue the NHS with a £2.5bn-a-year Time to Care fund – on top of Tory spending plans – to fund new staff, including 20,000 more nurses.
“NHS patients are already seeing waiting times and cancer care heading downhill on this government’s watch – people will fear that much worse will be in store next year. It is clear you can’t trust the Tories with the NHS.”