Chancellor's Spring Review fails to deliver on detail

NHS investment plans largely ignored as Philip Hammond focuses on future of other key government departments

Philip Hammond

Improvements in cancer and mental health care, a transformation of GP services, and an investment into the recruitment of NHS staff are key priorities for the next year, Chancellor, Philip Hammond, said in his recent Spring Statement.

But, apart from reiterating his commitment to investing £34billion of additional funding into the NHS every year for the next five years; he was largely silent on the finer details many had hoped he would outline.

Instead, the thrust of his announcement was to provide more information on other departmental spending moving forward, although this, he said, hinged on the eventual outcome of the ongoing Brexit discussions.

He said: “We have made our biggest choice on public spending: putting the NHS first in line; with the Prime Minister’s announcement of £34billion of additional funding per year by the end of the period – the single largest cash commitment ever made by a peacetime British Government – to support our long-term plan for the NHS.

I can confirm today that assuming a Brexit deal is agreed over the next few weeks, and the uncertainty that is hanging over our economy is lifted, I intend to launch a full three-year Spending Review before the summer recess to be concluded alongside an Autumn Budget. “It will set departmental budgets beyond the NHS

“Now we need to address wider departmental spending for the next review period.

“So, I can confirm today that assuming a Brexit deal is agreed over the next few weeks, and the uncertainty that is hanging over our economy is lifted, I intend to launch a full three-year Spending Review before the summer recess to be concluded alongside an Autumn Budget.

“It will set departmental budgets beyond the NHS.”

He did, however, agree funding for the provision of free sanitary products in secondary schools and colleges and a £100m injection for police forces in England to tackle knife crime.

And he also announced a new £3billion Affordable Homes Guarantee scheme; and the launch a global review of the link between biodiversity and economic growth following confirmation that the Government will mandate biodiversity net gain for development in England.

But he warned that a ‘disorderly Brexit’ would deal a ‘significant blow’ to economic activity in the short term.

We have made our biggest choice on public spending: putting the NHS first in line

His comments come after the latest figures from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecast that the UK economy will grow at the slowest pace since the financial crisis over the coming year.

The OBR cut its 2019 growth forecast to 1.2% - the weakest growth rate since 2009.

That is a significant cut from the 1.6% expansion predicted by the Government's economic watchdog last October.

After that growth is expected to rebound.

The statement left the forecast for GDP growth in 2020 at 1.4% and now expects the UK economy to expand by 1.6% a year in the following three years.