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Monday, 14 February, 2000, 03:36 GMT
Government 'spins NHS funding pledges'

waiting on trolleys Funding to tackle waiting lists questioned


The public is being given an untrue picture of NHS funding because ministers repeat announcements of supposedly new money, claims the British Medical Association (BMA).

More straightforward, honest presentation of funding, in place of government "spin", is demanded by the BMA.

But the Department of Health said it had been "very clear" about the way additional money has been calculated.



It would help everybody to understand what extra resources are needed if we were just quite clear about where this money is going and there was no chance of double counting
Dr Ian Bogle
The association says the area is clouded by confusion and claims waiting list initiatives are an area particularly prone to repeat announcements of the same money dressed up as new schemes.

A wide-ranging review of NHS funding, which came under the spotlight during the winter flu crisis, is being carried out by the BMA.

'Blamed'

Doctors claim they are being blamed for problems caused by a lack of resources when they are facing greater pressures than ever before.

Chairman of the BMA Dr Ian Bogle said when he announced the review that nothing was ruled out, including a possible recommendation that patients are charged for treatment to boost NHS coffers.

The government announced in its comprehensive spending review an extra 21bn for the NHS UK-wide, but the BMA is among bodies that argue the real figure is somewhat lower.

Now in its report into NHS funding in England, the BMA says: "Repeat announcements of the same new funding have made it difficult for those delivering services to understand what money is available and to plan accordingly.

"We would suggest that in future years, less attempt is made to 'spin' funding announcements."

'Confusion'

The association highlights mental health spending as one area of confusion, saying announcements total 116m in funding for England in 1999-2000, while the government, the BMA says, claims it has put 146m into services during that period.

Dr Bogle told BBC News Online: "It would look to the person hearing about government spending that there is considerably more being put in than is actually being spent.

"It would help everybody to understand what extra resources are needed if we were just quite clear about where this money is going and there was no chance of double counting."

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: "We have been very clear about the way in which the 21bn increase has been calculated."

She said there would be an additional 2.8bn for England in 1999-2000, a further 2.9bn in the coming financial year and a further 2.8bn the year after that.

She added: "Where we have made announcements about ring-fenced money it has been to make clear how much has been allocated to ministers' priorities - heart disease, cancer and mental health.

"Where a number of announcements are made about ring-fenced money it has been to flag up the allocation process to let every part of the country know how to bid for the cash, what cash they will receive and what it will buy."

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See also:
09 Dec 99 |  Health
BMA launches review of NHS funding
17 Jan 00 |  Health
Q & A: Extra money for the NHS
24 Jan 00 |  Health
Winston calls for NHS spending pledge

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