Budget 2018 Health Announcements and Reaction

Nicky Broyd

October 29, 2018

The Chancellor's biggest budget declaration on NHS spending was not new. It was a £2.5 billion increase in spending over the next 5 years and had already been announced 4 months ago by the Prime Minister.

Phillip Hammond made no apology for the repetition: "Our NHS is the number one priority of the British people" he said, "and as we approach the 70th anniversary of its foundation they had a right to know the scale of our commitment to it."

The Chancellor said the Government didn't "just hand over" the money but in return agreed "that the NHS would produce a 10-year NHS plan setting out how the service will reform, how waste will be reduced and exactly what the British people can expect to get for their money".

Mental Illness

Mr Hammond announced that as part of the NHS 10 Year Plan there will be:

  • A new mental health crisis service

  • Comprehensive mental health support available in every major A & E

  • Children and young people's crisis teams in every part of the country 

  • more mental health ambulances

  • more safe havens in the community

  • A 24-hour mental health crisis hotline

Local Authority Social Care

The Chancellor  said the Government's green paper on the future of social care will be published shortly but in the meantime he recognised the immediate pressures local authorities face.

He said: "So today, building on the £240 million for social care winter pressures announced earlier this month, I will make available a further £650 million of grant funding for English authorities for 2019/20 and an additional £45 million for the disabled facilities grant in England in 2018/19 and will invest a further £84million over the next 5 years to expand our successful children's social care programmes to 20 further councils with high or rising numbers of children in care." 

The budget is the UK's last before the Brexit deadline in March 2019.

Air Ambulance

Air Ambulances services that are funded by charity were given £10 million. 

Health secretary Matt Hancock said the money would "help them continue their tireless work to get those with life-threatening illnesses and injuries to the expert medical care they need."


Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn criticised the budget saying: "Our precious National Health Service is the thermometer of the wellbeing of our society but the illness is austerity."

He said the mental health funding was "only half what leading mental health experts say is necessary," and that the social care funding announcement "is a drop in the ocean" compared with what was needed.
He also pointed to GP, nurse, and health visitor numbers falling, and "10,000 vacancies for doctors in our National Health Service".

Health groups have also been reacting to the budget.

The BMA (British Medical Association) said: "That no new money appears to have been announced in Budget 2018 for the NHS is incredibly disappointing. We have outlined how the £20bn allocated in June is not enough to meet rising levels of demand in the health service. The Chancellor seems not to have acknowledged this at all.

"The £20bn that’s been promised over the next 5 years is not enough to make the NHS sustainable and so far no thought has been given to the additional financial drain to NHS resources that Brexit may bring.

"Independent think-tanks including analysis from the BMA have already stated that the NHS needs a funding increase of at least 4% a year - not the 3.4% announced by the Prime Minister."

However, there was a guarded welcome for mental health funding: "Mental ill-health affects 1 in 4 people in England and is significantly underfunded, so that mental health services are to be prioritised over the next 10 years is positive. However, we will need to see more detail on how this will work in practice and reach the frontline."

Professor Wendy Burn, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, welcomed the promise that spending on mental health will increase as a proportion of NHS spend over the next 5 years, and said: "The focus on younger people and crisis services is welcome, but this mustn’t be at the expense of the vital community mental health services which treat so many people with mental illness."

Chief Executive of the mental health charity Mind, Paul Farmer, said: "NHS mental health services have been underfunded for decades and we know that too often, people don't get the help and support they need, when they need it. This commitment ahead of the NHS long-term plan indicates that mental health is rightly high on the Government's agenda, and has the potential to improve access to care, once detailed plans are clear. 

"The £2 billion committed should be seen as more of a 'down-payment' on what needs to be much faster growth in future.

"We look forward to seeing how mental health is reflected across the NHS long-term plan when it is published shortly."

Director of Policy at The King’s Fund, Richard Murray, commented: "The social care system cannot continue to get by on last-minute, piecemeal funding announcements. Adult social care in England needs at least £1.5 billion more per year simply to cope with demand meaning that the funding announced today, which will also need to cover children’s social care, falls far short.

"This highlights the need for a long-term plan for how social care will be funded and structured so that it can meet increasing demand. Successive governments have dodged tough decisions on social care and the forthcoming Green Paper must now ensure social care gets the long-term plan it so desperately needs.

"Two billion pounds for mental health confirms the early signals that this would be a key priority for the forthcoming NHS long-term plan. But years of underfunding have taken their toll and this is no more than a small step on the road to parity of esteem. Mental health services need more than money to meet demand. A chronic shortage of mental health staff means that, despite the new funding, the service won’t improve until the Government and the NHS provide a plan to increase the workforce."

Alzheimer's Society chief executive Jeremy Hughes said: "Six hundred and fifty milion pounds to prop up the broken social care system only just staves off total collapse. It does nothing for people with dementia who are footing the bill themselves, while people with other diseases are getting free support through the NHS.

"We’re told austerity is over, but people living with dementia have been forgotten, and the Budget was a missed opportunity to end this injustice. Now the pressure is on for the Government to create a properly funded and joined-up system that can deliver high quality dementia care."

Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said that "the Chancellor again missed an opportunity to be frank with the public about the need to fund essential services properly. If we want high quality health and social care we will have to pay for it."


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.
Post as: