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Chancellor Gordon Brown
"Securing the future of the NHS is one of the great challenges"
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The BBC's Neill Dickson reports
"The rises are much larger than expected"
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banner Tuesday, 21 March, 2000, 17:39 GMT
Billions for the NHS

The total NHS budget is to rise by 35% in real terms over the next five years, Chancellor Gordon Brown has announced.

Breaking with tradition, Mr Brown announced financial allocations for the NHS for the next four years that will bring the UK much closer to the average level of spending on health in the rest of Europe.

He promised that some of the cash would be used to recruit and train an extra 10,000 nurses for the NHS.

Mr Brown told the House of Commons spending on the NHS would rise from 49.3bn in the current financial year to 54.2bn next year - 2bn more than had been planned.

Securing the long term future of the NHS is one of the great challenges this country must and will meet

Gordon Brown, Chancellor
The year after that, spending will rise again, to 58.6bn, then to 63.5bn, then to 68.7bn in the year starting April 2003.

He said: "This government is committed to a publicly financed NHS true to the original principles of its founders.

"Securing the long term future of the NHS is one of the great challenges this country must and will meet."

Mr Brown said since its creation, National Health Service spending had risen by an average 3.3% a year above inflation.

Under the last government it rose by 2.9%.

(This is) By far the largest sustained increase in NHS funding of any period in the 50 year history of the health service

Gordon Brown, Chancellor
He said: "We have decided that in the years from now until 2004 the NHS will grow by twice as much - by 6.1 per cent a year over and above inflation, by far the largest sustained increase in NHS funding of any period in the 50 year history of the health service."

Mr Brown said last year the equivalent of just over 1,850 per household was spent on the NHS.

By 2004 that figure would rise to more than 2,800 per household.

He said there has been an increase of 4,000 in the number of nurses working in the health service since Labour came to power.

The new cash would allow the recruitment and training of up to 10,000 more nurses.

Mr Brown also announced that a 25p rise on the price of a packet of 20 cigarettes will go directly to the NHS.

Prime Minister Tony Blair will make a Commons' statement on Wednesday outlining plans for more reform of the NHS.

The chancellor promised an extra 21bn would be pumped into the NHS over three years in his Comprehensive Spending Review in 1998.

However, critics claim that the government exaggerated the actual sum that was made available.

Struggling to cope

The service also struggled to cope with increased demand over the new year when the number of people with flu increased sharply.

Non-urgent operations were cancelled at hospitals around the country, and as a result waiting lists for hospital treatment jumped by nearly 47,000 patients in the two months to the end of January.

The prime minister has said the government wants to bring UK spending on health up to that of the rest of Europe by 2005.

The UK currently spends 6.8% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on health.

The healthcare think-tank, the King's Fund has calculated the average European spend on health is 8.6% of GDP.

If inflation in the NHS runs at 2% a year, the total NHS budget in 2005/6 would have to be at least 77.5bn to meet that target - compared with 49.3bn currently.

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See also:

21 Mar 00 | Budget2000
NHS funding: The reaction
04 Nov 99 | Health
NHS in crisis: Special report
10 Jan 00 | Health
Flu: An NHS nightmare
09 Jan 00 | Health
NHS on its knees, say Tories
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