Five numbers to sum up the Spending Round for health and social care

This content relates to the following topics:

‘The devil is in the detail’ is a common refrain at major fiscal events like Spring Statements, Autumn Budgets, and Spending Reviews. This Wednesday’s Spending Round was no different, with several new numbers now in the public domain for health and social care spending.

So let’s look at some of the key numbers that were mentioned in the Spending Round. And we’ll do this alongside some equally important numbers that were not explicitly mentioned on Wednesday, but which are still helpful for understanding what lies ahead for health and social care spending in 2020/21.  

1. £1 billion for adult social care

The Spending Round contained a multitude of different numbers on social care spending, including £2.5 billion, £1 billion, £500 million, and 2 per cent. Let’s take these in turn.

The £2.5 billion refers to the existing social care grants that will be rolled over (on top of the main adult social care budgets) from 2019/20 to 2020/21 in cash terms. For context, in 2019/20 these grants were made up of £1.8 billion from the improved Better Care Fund, £410 million from the social care support grant in for adult and children’s services, and £240 million from the winter pressures grant for adults.

As there was no certainty these grants would continue into 2020/21, their rollover from the Spending Round – albeit in cash rather than real terms – is positive news for councils who would have otherwise been forced to contemplate decommissioning the much-needed services that are supported by these grants.

The NHS contribution to adult social care through the Better Care Fund will also continue, and increases in 3.4 per cent in real terms on its £3.8 billion baseline. It is hard to place a figure on how much extra BCF funding for adult social care there will be in 2020/21, as local areas can top up how much funding is placed into the Better Care Fund on top of the mandatory minimum, and only some of the Better Care Fund money is directly spent on adult social care (for example, some BCF funding is spent on reducing delayed transfers of care). Further details on how the money will be spent will come in the annual Better Care Fund policy framework from the Department of Health and Social Care.

On top of that the Government will make an additional £1 billion available to councils in 2020/21 for both adult and children’s social care. Local councils will decide how much of this £1 billion will be spent on adult social care and children’s social care respectively. If the present year is any guide, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services Budget Survey 2019 tells us that just over half of the similar £410 million is expected to be spent on adult social care in 2019/20 – which would equate to about £500 million of funding in 2020/21 from the new larger grant.

The government will also consult on continuing the adult social care precept into 2020/21. Since 2016/17 councils have been allowed to increase council tax to bring in additional funding ringfenced for adult social care. Subject to the results of the consultation, councils will be allowed to increase local tax by up to 2 per cent in 2020/21. Every 1 per cent of precept is estimated to bring in approximately £230 million nationally in 2019/20, and only a small number of councils opt out of applying the precept. So continuing the precept gives councils the potential to raise around £500 million more for adult social care in 2020/21 – with the details to be confirmed as part of the local government finance settlement later this financial year.

So up to £1 billion of new funding for adult social care will be available to councils in 2020/21, if we assume £500 million comes from the continued adult social care precept and £500 million from a share of the £1 billion grant. This funding growth will help adult social care services to meet rising demand and continue to help stabilise (but not fully stabilise) the system over the coming year. This extra funding is more than a sticking plaster – a bandage perhaps – for the budget cuts councils have seen in recent years. But it does not lessen the need for the much-promised and regularly-delayed fundamental reform of how adult social care is funded and financed.

2. £210 million for NHS workforce development

The Spending Round mentioned three key numbers on the NHS workforce: £150 million; £1,000, and 3.4 percent.

Let’s take the first two numbers together. Health Education England’s budget for the continuing professional development (CPD) of NHS nurses, midwives and allied health professionals will rise by £150 million in 2020/21. If this £150 million in 2020/21 was matched by the same level of investment in 2021/22 and 2022/23, it will provide an extra £1,000 per head in total training budgets over this three-year period.

The continuing professional development needs of clinical staff who are not directly employed by NHS trusts – such as health visitors and nurses employed in social care – are no less important. But for the moment it is unclear whether these staff will be able to benefit from this additional funding.

In one sense, expressing the growth in CPD budgets per head over the three years from 2020/21 to 2022/23 makes complete sense because it matches the revalidation cycle of NHS nurses (ie, registered nurses, nursing associates and midwives have to renew their registration every three years with the Nursing and Midwifery Council so they can continue to practice).

But in another sense, it is strange to see a three-year commitment made as part of a Spending Round that was only meant to provide certainty for 2020/21. The Chief Executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens has already said he expects education and training budgets to rise over the next four years. The Department of Health and Social Care have confirmed they will ensure funding is available in subsequent years so that staff have access to their £1,000 personalised CPD budget even if we are unclear over whether the funding from 2021/22 onwards will come from additional funding from the Treasury, or from reallocation and match funding from within the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England and NHS Improvement budgets.

So where does the £210 million come in? This is the increase in education and training budgets that was trailed earlier in the week, but was not explicitly mentioned in the Spending Round itself. It includes the £150 million for CPD, but also provides an extra £60 million of funding for Health Education England to support the recommendations of the NHS People Plan in 2020/21.

Simon Stevens said in July 2019 that the nursing bursary is ‘back in play’ as an issue, which highlights how much more work is needed to both recruit more staff, and retain the staff the health and care system already has. If increasing the CPD funding opportunities for existing staff is one way to improve staff retention, learning and morale, it is possible (but still to be determined) that the remaining £60 million could be targeted instead at increasing clinical placements and growing the clinical workforce.

So that takes us to the final number of the 3.4 per cent real terms increase in Health Education England’s budget. If you take Health Education England’s programme spending in 2019/20 (which is planned to be approximately £3.96 billion after adjusting for the £49.1 million of expenditure for the NHS Leadership Academy, which transferred to NHS Improvement from April 2019), and grow it by £210 million in cash, that gets you to the 3.4 per cent in real terms the Chancellor referred to.

3. £7.0 billion for NHS capital

Unfortunately, while most of the Spending Round focuses on 2020/21, capital is one area where we have to jump between spending in 2019/20 and 2020/21 because budgets for both years have now been increased.

The Spending Round mentioned five key numbers on NHS capital: £2 billion, £854 million, £1 billion, £250 million and £78 million.


4. More for public health

More for public health 

The Spending Round mentioned no key numbers when it comes to public health services, though it did include some key dates. And although no specific funding numbers were confirmed, this may be a relief given the 2015 Spending Review set out average annual 3.9 per cent real-terms reductions to these budgets. This has seen the public health grant shrink by £850 million in real terms in 2019/20 compared to initial allocations in 2015/16.

The Spending Round did confirm these cuts will be halted with a real-terms increase to the public health grant from 2019/20 to 2020/21. Though, because this increase will have to come from reprioritisation within the Department of Health and Social Care budget, it is more likely to be in the tens of millions than the £1 billion increase we and the Health Foundation called for in 2020/21 to return spending per head to the levels of 2015/16.

And rather than being tied very tightly to the delivery or expansion of new services, any real-terms increases are also likely to be used to meet rising pressures (eg, pay inflation) to help maintain existing services.

No less important is that the implementation of the 75 per cent business rates retention and the Fair Funding Review will be delayed from April 2020 until April 2021. We have noted elsewhere that these changes come with considerable risks as well as potential benefits. So the extra time provides a welcome chance to better understand the impact of these changes and to plan for their potential implementation.

5. 2.9 per cent growth for the Department of Health and Social Care

2.9 per cent growth for the Department of Health and Social Care 

So finally to overall NHS spending, where the Spending Round mentioned several key numbers: £33.9 billion, £34 billion, £6.2 billion and 3.1 per cent growth.

Let’s begin with the easier numbers. The £34 billion the Chancellor mentioned in his speech, and the £33.9 billion (ie, the £34 billion unrounded), are the extra spending previously announced in the 2018 NHS five-year settlement and confirmed in January 2019. This settlement will see NHS England’s mandate spending rise by £33.9 billion in cash terms from £114.6 billion in 2018/19 to £148.5 billion in 2023/24. When adjusted for inflation, this equates to the £20.5 billion increase that was more commonly referred to when the NHS five-year settlement was announced.

The £6.2 billion increase announced in NHS funding from 2019/20 to 2020/21 is also in cash terms, as NHS England’s mandate funding will rise from £123.7 billion to £129.9 billion over this period.

The 3.1 per cent increase that was mentioned in the Spending Round applies to revenue spending (excluding depreciation) by the Department of Health and Social Care. This will see revenue spending rise from £132.3 billion in 2019/20 to £138.9 billion in 2020/21, in cash terms. This rise, when adjusted for inflation, matches the 3.1 per cent growth rate expected in NHS England mandate funding in 2020/21 (to note: the average annual increase in NHS England mandate funding is 3.4 per cent over the five-year deal, the profile of the individual year on year increases is uneven, with the highest growth coming in the first and last years of the settlement).

But the most interesting number in understanding health spending continues to be the total departmental expenditure limit for the Department of Health and Social Care, which is the sum of the resource (excluding depreciation) and capital budgets. This will rise from £139.3 billion in 2019/20 to £146.0 billion in 2020/21 in cash terms, and to £143.4 billion in real terms (a 2.9 per cent increase).


David Hancock

Healthcare Executive Advisor,
Comment date
29 December 2019

Excellent blog demystifying the 5 headline figures. I am rereading this in light of the GE result and the latest announcement from Matt Hancock on the "Digital Aspirant Programme" where he (and NHSX) want to get all Providers to increase their digital maturity and not get further left behind the Global Digital Exemplars (GDEs) and Fast Followers (FFs). Where do you see the funding for the Digital Aspirant Programme coming from, how much could it be and over what time period?

Whilst we should be optimistic, I am always pessimistic because as you have written, capital funding repeatedly gets redirected to fund operational activity.

Nicholas Doyle

Management Consultant,
Community Matters
Comment date
11 September 2019

Well written insightful Blog on the Five points. A very difficult time to accurately determine what the real picture is due to the extraordinary political times we find ourselves in.

Add your comment