The government has misquoted the head of NHS England on spending plans

Published: 12th Jan 2017

In brief

Claim

NHS England head Simon Stevens has said the government’s spending commitments are a “clear acceptance of our argument” and that their case for funding has been “heard and actively supported”.

Conclusion

The government is misquoting Mr Stevens. He has welcomed the fact that the money has been ‘frontloaded’ so that more is spent in earlier years and previously said the NHS’s requests are being heard in the context of public spending constraints. He has since commented that it would be a “stretch” to say the NHS is getting all of what it asked for.

The latest government line on NHS spending misquotes the chief executive of NHS England.

The government has come under increasing fire over its claims about NHS spending: namely that it’s putting an extra £10 billion into the service and that this is more than the NHS itself has asked for. We’ve found problems with both claims and Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England, told MPs only yesterday that:

“I think it would be stretching it to say that the NHS has got more than it asked for”.

The Times’ Sam Coates commented on Twitter that, in defending itself from this criticism, the government has edited comments by Mr Stevens from 2015.

The claim from Downing Street that’s currently circulating states:

"The figures speak for themselves, and they will see an increase in real terms of £10 billion. And at the time the NHS England chief executive said 'the settlement is a clear and highly welcome acceptance of our argument. Our case for the NHS has been heard and actively supported."

Downing Street confirmed to us this is what was said to journalists in a briefing yesterday.

But that’s not all of what Mr Stevens said in 2015. Here are his comments at the time, as they were published:

“This settlement is a clear and highly welcome acceptance of our argument for frontloaded NHS investment. It will help stabilise current pressures on hospitals, GPs, and mental health services, and kick start the NHS Five Year Forward View’s fundamental redesign of care.

“In the context of constraints on overall public spending, our case for the NHS has been heard and actively supported.”

Mr Stevens mentions that he was happy that NHS investment was “frontloaded”. That means providing more of the NHS’ funding in the early years of parliament and less money later on, as the government plans to do.


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