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Monday, 13 March, 2000, 13:59 GMT
NHS spending claims 'misleading'
Funding pledges for NHS criticised
The government is accused of misleading the public over funding of the NHS by repeating the same announcements several times.

The BBC's Panorama programme says ministers are guilty of "spinning" figures to make them look more attractive.

There is a sort of lexicon of words and ways you can describe something to accommodate the reality

Romola Christopherson, former head of communications, Department of Health
Announcements claiming "extra" money is being put into the health service are often repeats of earlier commitments to funding, claims the programme to be broadcast on BBC1 on Monday.

The allegations come after the British Medical Association (BMA) accused the Department of Health of confusing the public and the medical profession with repeat announcements.

The programme claims:

  • An extra 21bn announced under the Comprehensive Spending Review involved "creative accounting. The real figure was 10.3bn
  • An extra 30m to modernise Accident and Emergency departments has been announced four times
  • The government's claim that the European Union average spending on health is 8% of GDP is a crude calculation - the real figure is 9%
  • A 20m boost for an instant booking system to reduce waiting lists has been announced four times
  • 320m to cut waiting lists has been announced in two consecutive years
  • Claims of an additional 7,000 doctors actually indicated the number who would come out of medical school anyway

Carefully worded

Romola Christopherson, who was head of communications at the Department of Health until January 1999, tells the programme that press announcements are carefully worded.

She said: "There is a sort of lexicon of words and ways you can describe something to accommodate the reality. If it really is new, then you'll use 'new. 'Extra', 'boost', 'cash for' doesn't necessarily mean it's the first time it's been announced and this is 'new, never been thought of before' money."

Referring to the 21bn announcement under the Comprehensive Spending Review, she added: "I certainly had reservations about... the accusations of triple counting.

"My recollection is that I would have alerted them to that potential, but that's my job, and at the end of the day it's up to ministers to decide."

Dr Ian Bogle, chairman of the BMA's council, said: "They're certainly confusing my colleagues and I think confusing the public, by announcing the same thing over and over again in slightly different terms."

Panorama, BBC1, Monday 13 March 2200GMT

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14 Jan 00 | Health
NHS funding row grows
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