Extra funds for NHS are just the first step to a better health service, says The King's Fund

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'The Chancellor's decision to increase NHS funding by 7.4 per cent in real terms for the next five years will be welcome news both to patients and staff,' The King's Fund chief executive Rabbi Julia Neuberger said today.

Speaking after the 2002 Budget speech, Rabbi Julia Neuberger said:

'The NHS has endured decades of under-investment. The staffing shortages it faces in nursing, general practice and many other professions are a very visible testimony to that.

'General taxation remains the fairest and most efficient method of health care funding and the government is right to commit to it.

'But putting more funds into a reformed NHS will not be enough. As the Wanless report today showed, the health service will only be fit to serve twenty-first century Britain when the government also places sustained extra investment in social care services and makes a concerted effort to reduce health inequalities.

'We welcome the Chancellor's decision to raise social care spending by six per cent per year. Research shows that care services are struggling to keep pace with growing demand, especially from the increasing number of frail older people. Yet investment in care services still lags behind the NHS. A sustained rise in social care spending will need to follow from today's announcement if care services are to keep pace with rising NHS activity.

'The government should also focus more of its efforts on preventing avoidable illness. By trying to involve themselves in the day-to-day running of the NHS, ministers have interfered too much in health care while giving insufficient attention to the public's health. The result is extra costs to the NHS of treating avoidable illness amongst the poorest and most vulnerable in society.'

Notes to editors

1. The King's Fund last week published Five Year Health Check, a review of health policy since 1997. It commended the government for its clear commitment to a tax-funded NHS and for the general direction of its reforms but warned of too much central control of day-to-day activity.

2. For interviews with The King's Fund staff, please contact Andrew Bell on 020 7307 2585 or 07831 554931, or Daniel Reynolds on 020 7307 2581.