The porous NHS ring-fence

English: NHS logo

Protected

A neat if cynical example of competing truths from Chancellor George Osborne today in his 2015-16 Spending Review.  The UK government is determined to bring down the deficit by cutting public spending, but its freedom to act is limited by the “ring-fence” it has erected, for good political reasons, around the gargantuan Health budget.  Consequently, heavier cuts have to be made in other budgets such as Work & Pensions, Justice and Local Government.

But Osborne has found a sly way round his own ring-fence.  He has announced a £3 billion “joint commissioning plan” between the NHS and local councils for social care.  What this seems to mean in practice is that the NHS will start paying for social care services previously funded by cash-strapped councils.

He can still assert the truth of the Tories’ election pledge that NHS spending is to be protected.  And at the same time he can engineer a competing truth, effectively cutting the Health budget for existing services by up to £3 billion.

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