HSJ’s roundup of what Wednesday’s Budget means for the NHS

Four more years of pay restraint

Chancellor George Osborne on Wednesday delivered what will be seen as a bombshell announcement for public sector workers, including many in the NHS, with news that pay restraint is going to continue for at least another four years. Mr Osborne told MPs public sector pay rises would be limited to 1 per cent a year for four years – a move likely to anger unions and staff alike, following last year’s pay dispute in the NHS which saw staff take industrial action.

The decision is at odds with the forecast made in the NHS Five Year Forward View, which said wages would need to rise to reflect a return to growth in the private sector.

It may also be difficult news to handle for NHS Employers, which has talked of ending pay restraint as part of efforts to renegotiate terms and conditions and secure workforce changes to help deliver new care models.

£8bn more by 2020

The forward view was specifically name checked by Mr Osborne in his speech – he committed to “fund fully” what he called the “Stevens plan” (after NHS England chief Simon, for anyone not keeping up).

As the Conservatives promised during the election campaign, the NHS will receive £8bn extra funding annually in real terms by 2020.

Coming on top of the £2bn extra announced by the coalition government in the autumn statement (which was not all new to the Department of Health), Mr Osborne said this would amount to “£10bn more a year in real terms by 2020”.

Spelling out part of the price for this funding growth, the chancellor said it was “proof that you can only have a strong seven day NHS if you have a strong economy” (our emphasis).

Devolution deadline

Mr Osborne was keen to trumpet new moves towards further devolution in England – but also wants areas keen to take on greater powers to hurry up with their proposals.

As HSJ and our sister title Local Government Chronicle revealed last week, Cornwall was featured as an area making good progress on this front, while Sheffield, Leeds, Liverpool and the Midlands were also name checked.

But Mr Osborne has also imposed a deadline for devo deals. The Budget document says that, while ministers are still open to new devolution proposals these must be submitted “in time for conclusion ahead of the spending review”. It is as yet unclear how - or if - NHS powers will be changes in any of these areas.

Meanwhile in Greater Manchester, a “land commission” is to be created, to take an overview of all publicly owned land. It looks as if this will be more than a talking shop too, because it will be co-chaired by the housing minister, while ministers from other “key landowning departments” (surely the DH, then?) will also be involved.