The NHS and social care are seriously underfunded. That was the unequivocal message from the boss of NHS England, Simon Stevens, in evidence to the Public Accounts Committee on Wednesday.
In a combative performance in which he took several thinly disguised swipes at the Prime Minister’s advisers who had briefed against him before his appearance, Stevens left no one in any doubt that more money is needed if the public’s expectations are to be met. His evidence brought to the boil debates that have been simmering for some time. Stevens challenged the government either to find more money for the NHS and social care, or be honest with the public about the consequences.
Theresa May and her ministers have resisted calls for additional funding so far by arguing that the NHS has received financial protection when other budgets have been cut, and by claiming that the NHS has been given more money than it asked for. While the first part of this argument is true, the second is misleading. The Department of Health’s budget will increase by just over £4 billion during this parliament, a long way short of the £10 billion ministers claim has been provided "to back the NHS plan". And while social care funding will increase later in the parliament, this follows years of funding cuts which new measures to allow local authorities to increase council tax will do little to reverse.