Health Secretary hints at more money for the NHS in autumn statement

Health Secretary Steve Barclay has strongly hinted the NHS could be given more cash in the Chancellor’s autumn statement on Thursday.

Speaking at the NHS Providers conference in Liverpool, he denied a newspaper report he had suggested the NHS did not need any more money to meet inflationary pressure on costs.

“That is completely incorrect,” he said. “The good thing about this is colleagues in the room will be able to see tomorrow.

“I can assure you that the Treasury wouldn’t allocate any money to the department if the department said it didn’t need it, given the fiscal situation we face.

“So in short, of course, we face significant financial pressures and inflation is there.”

He said there had been a “lot of discussion” with Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, adding: “One of the things I’m able to bring to this role, having been chief of staff in Number 10, having been the minister responsible for the Cabinet Office, is actually a very good understanding as to how best to make the case for the Department of Health and also in terms of our care sector, in terms of making that case to the centre.

“So… I can absolutely confirm that we do need support to meet those inflationary pressures.”

He urged delegates to judge him on the results of Thursday’s announcement, saying they should see whether “it is true or not that we don’t get a penny and I’ve not asked for a penny”.

Earlier, he told the conference during a speech: “I have been very clear in setting out the extent of (NHS) challenges in shaping the context of the Chancellor’s statement to the House tomorrow.”

NHS England has warned it is facing a £7 billion hole in its finances next year.

The NHS is set to receive £152 billion in 2022/23, £157 billion the following year and £162 billion in 2024/25.

Mr Barclays also told the conference that delayed discharges from hospitals of medically fit people needed to be tackled.

He suggested ways to increase the number of discharges at weekends.

“Sometimes one can see in hospitals at the weekend that discharge drops so the question then is what is within the trust’s own control?” he said.

“Obviously, consultants at the weekend, what they can do? Often you get specific issues: palliative care, dementia, Parkinson’s. There is often a range of factors.”

That comment comes after a doctor said last week that NHS hospitals are like the Mary Celeste (an empty and abandoned ship) on Friday afternoons.

Dr Andrew Stein, a consultant kidney specialist who runs a guide for patients on how the NHS works, said underuse of facilities at weekends was hampering efforts to tackle the growing NHS waiting list.

NHS figures show that fewer discharges are made on weekends.

In the four weeks from October 3 to October 30, the average number of weekend discharges was 6,828.

The average number of weekday discharges was 10,211, meaning the weekend average is 33% lower.

The NHS Providers conference also heard that the £500 million adult social care discharge fund, announced in September, would not be released to the front line until December.

Mr Barclay said: “The first tranche will be provided by early December, and the second will be distributed at the end of January.”

The interim chief executive of NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery, said: “Trust leaders will welcome reassurances from the Health and Social Care Secretary that he has been batting on the NHS’ behalf in negotiations with the Chancellor ahead of tomorrow’s fiscal statement.

“Inflationary pressures have left a £7bn shortfall in the NHS’s budgets, and tough efficiency targets mean more savings will be hard to find without impacting on frontline patient care.”