Labour have today announced a “£26bn real terms healthcare funding boost,” which they say will “provide safe quality care, recruit the thousands of staff needed, rebuild crumbling facilities and provide modern state of the art equipment”.
It’s significantly more than the amount promised by any major party at the 2017 General Election.
But it seems Labour are now offering less for NHS England than they were in 2018, and have overstated how much more generous their commitment is compared to current government plans.
Is it ‘£6bn more’ than current Conservative plans?
Labour describe the announcement as a “£26bn real terms Rescue Plan.”
What they mean is that by 2023-24, the NHS budget will be £26bn more than it is today, once inflation is taken into account.
Labour accept that most of that increase has already been planned by the government.
The party’s press release says their plan will see “over £6bn in real terms more than the funding announced by the Tories last year”.
Specifically, Labour say the proposal “will mean a real-terms increase of £26bn for day-to-day NHS spending from 2018-19 to 2023-24 – the period over which the Conservatives have promised £20bn.”
But the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has told FactCheck that this calculation is now out-of-date.
While the government announced an extra £20bn in June 2018, the IFS now estimate that existing government plans will see the NHS budget rise by £23.5bn in real terms over that period. The equivalent figure for Labour’s new proposals is £26.7bn.
So Labour are offering £3.2bn more than currently planned by the Conservatives over the period 2018-19 to 2023-24 — not £6bn, as they claim.
It’s also worth saying that the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have yet to say whether they will pledge extra NHS funding as part of the election campaign, so we cannot yet say which party will be offering the most generous package by the time we head to the polls next month.
Have Labour reduced their offer to the NHS since 2018?
Labour say their new pledge will see the total Department of Health and Social Care budget rise by 4.3 per cent a year on average for the next four years. The IFS calculates this will mean £8.8bn more in total health spending in 2023-24 than is currently planned.
The NHS is only one part of the Department’s overall spending. Under Labour plans, the day-to-day NHS England budget will increase by 3.8 per cent in real terms annually, according to the IFS.
But only last year, Labour pledged rather more for NHS England. In June 2018, the party committed to “top up NHS spending growth to around the 5 per cent which is needed.” They confirmed to FactCheck at the time that this would be “for all years.”
So it appears Labour have reduced their offer to grow the NHS England budget every year from 5 per cent to 3.8 per cent on average.
It is worth saying, though, that today’s commitment is still more generous than the one the party put forward at the 2017 General Election (when they pledged 2 per cent annual growth) and current government plans (3.2 per cent).
The IFS also explained to FactCheck that Labour’s broader plan offers extra spending on areas that have not fared well since 2014, which could make it more generous in practice than the headline figure suggests.
What do Labour say?
Labour told us: “As made clear in our press release, our NHS England commitment is £6bn more than the £20bn which Theresa May announced last year the NHS budget would increase by between 2019 and 2024.”
The spokesperson said: “The £20bn figure is presumably the real terms equivalent to the figure that Boris Johnson consistently uses when he talks about his NHS plans, as recently as last week.”
They pointed us to an article in the Telegraph written by Boris Johnson in which he refers to “putting a record £34bn now into the NHS.”
The Labour spokesperson added: “Responding to our proposals today, the IFS has said Labour’s proposals include an increase on day-to-day NHS spending in England, other day-to-day health spending in England and capital investment.
“Labour’s proposals would increase day-to-day NHS spending in England at a quicker rate than current government plans: we estimate that health spending could be almost £9bn higher in 2023-24 under Labour than under the current governments plans.”
Note that “health spending” refers to the entire Department of Health budget, not just the NHS, which is what Labour’s “£6bn” claim relates to.
Labour have announced a “£26bn Rescue Plan” for the NHS. They accept that most of that increase has already been planned by the government.
However, they claim that their pledge is “over £6bn in real terms more than the funding announced by the Tories last year”.
But the IFS has since revised up its estimate of current government plans for NHS England. According to the think-tank, Labour are actually offering £3.2bn more in real terms than currently planned for 2023-24, not £6bn.
It also seems that today’s pledge is less generous than one Labour made in 2018, when the party promised to “top up NHS spending growth to around the 5 per cent which is needed.” Today, they’re offering 3.8 per cent.
It is worth saying, though, that today’s commitment is still more generous than the one Labour put forward at the 2017 General Election and current government plans.