Chancellor leaves pundits gasping with huge vote of confidence in NHS

An extra£2bn for the NHS in 2000-01, on top of the£2. 9bn extra already planned, was beyond the wildest dreams of even the most extravagant advocate for more health spending before chancellor Gordon Brown announced it at the end of his Budget speech.

Pundits had forecast anything between£200m and£800m, with the NHS Confederation entering a plea for£600m. Mr Brown has left them all agape. Annual growth of 6. 1 per cent above inflation every year until 2003-04 is indeed, as he said, the largest sustained funding increase in NHS history, and should all but fulfil the prime minister's pledge to reach European spending levels.

Worries about the size of the year-end deficit have been blown to oblivion in an instant.

Cynicism about government re-election worries aside, this is a massive vote of confidence in the NHS. As HSJ goes to press we await the details of the prime minister's announcement about how the cash is to be spent. Whatever they are, it will be down to NHS managers now to make it work.