Important announcements for the healthcare sector in the 2020 Budget
Yesterday (11th of March), Chancellor Rishi Sunak presented the 2020 Budget to Parliament, outlining the UK Government’s plans for the next financial year.
This year’s Budget announcement largely focused on the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, with Rishi highlighting a number of different measures that the Government will introduce to support those affected by the virus as well as businesses.
Support included creating a COVID-19 Response fund, initially set at £5 billion, to help:
- the NHS treat Coronavirus patients
- local authority actions to support social care services and vulnerable people
- ensuring that funding is available so other public services are prepared and protected
Importantly, Rishi announced that Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) will now be available for eligible individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 or those who are unable to work because they are self-isolating in line with Government advice.
The Government has also introduced a new £500 million Hardship Fund so local authorities can support economically vulnerable people and households amidst the Coronavirus outbreak.
Alongside the raft of new measures the Government has introduced in response to the Coronavirus outbreak – which can be read in full here – the 2020 Budget also addressed investment in the NHS.
The UK Government has already committed to providing the NHS with an additional £33.9 billion per year by 2024 and the 2020 Budget has also pledged more than £6 billion of new funding to support the NHS.
This new £6 billion investment is designed to help the NHS create 50 million more GP surgery appointments, ensure there are 50,000 more nurses, and make sure hospital car parking is free for staff working night shifts, disabled and terminally ill patients. The new funding also promises to provide support for people with learning disabilities and autism.
Additionally, Rishi announced that the Government will invest more than £100 million this year to make progress on building 40 new hospitals in England.
However, although this year’s budget announcement committed to funding for the NHS, the 2020 Budget failed to mention any plans for social care.
Several organisations have flagged this as a serious issue, remarking that the UK’s social care system is already at “breaking point” and without investment, disabled people will continue to struggle.
Responding to yesterday’s Budget announcement, Leonard Cheshire Director of Policy Gemma Hope commented: “The lack of action on social care constituted a serious omission from today’s budget announcement. The system is stretched to breaking point and many disabled people still don’t have the support to live as independently as they choose.
“Disabled people urgently need to see a clear plan on social care. This should include long-term funding that ensures access to high-quality care and support for people of all ages. If the government wants to honour its pledges on social care, it must build a fair system for all.”
Carers UK has also expressed its dismay regarding the failure to mention social care in the 2020 Budget, despite promises made by the new Government to deliver a solution for the social care “crisis”.
Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said: “We are dismayed that social care did not get even a mention in today’s Budget, after the Government’s promise to deliver a solution.
“As it is, families are under huge strain, with 600 people giving up work every day to care and many unpaid carers seeing their health and finances suffer. In the coming weeks, they will be taking extra precautions – stepping up beyond what they already do – to look after relatives and friends with underlying health conditions as the country deals with Coronavirus.
“In the short term, it is imperative that unpaid carers receive the support they need through the Government’s £500m hardship fund for local authorities to support vulnerable people. We are pleased the emergency response fund for public services to deal with Coronavirus includes helping local authorities who need social care support.
“The Chancellor said the Government is getting things done – not social care. Unpaid carers have been holding the system together for too long and they simply cannot afford to keep waiting for this promised plan.
“Until there is long-term investment in the system, and a proper plan, life will only become more difficult for the UK’s families.”