Coverage of the budget announcements, plus today’s news and comment.

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16.45pm The Health North scheme announced by the chancellor today will harness the expertise of the region’s NHS trusts, universities, scientists and technology experts to help tackle some of the greatest challenges facing health and care services, say contributors.

The project will see £20million invested in the creation of four pilots covering Newcastle, Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield to gather health and care data and develop new approaches to services.

The programme will be delivered by the Northern Health Science Alliance, a partnership of the leading universities and hospital trusts in the north of England.

“This is an exciting and innovative regional network for the north, which will power continuous improvement in health and social care,” said Sir Andrew Cash, chief executive of Sheffield Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust. “This will catalyse the world-class expertise of the Yorkshire and Humber’s universities, teaching hospitals and local authorities to deliver, in partnership across the north, a transformational step forward in the integration and deployment of ‘big picture’ data for the benefit of all.”

16.39pm The Royal College of Nursing is seeking a new chief executive and general secretary to take over from Peter Carter who is stepping down after eight years at the helm. The closing date for applications is April 13 with Mr Carter’s successor expected to be announced towards the end of June.

16.27pm Read HSJ’s round-up of today’s budget here.

16.13pm NHS Employers has launched a guide for managers on raising concerns.

The resource includes a self-assessment tool to help organisations guage how well they deal with concerns and information for managers on what they should know and key things to consider when a concern is raised with them.

15.55pm Women with genital piercings will be recorded as suffering female genital mutilation (FGM) under new NHS rules due to come into force next month, according to The Evening Standard. The new mandatory reporting regulations will apply to women who have chosen to have piercings for cosmetic reasons or because they believe it will enhance their sex lives, the Department of Health is reported to have confirmed.

15.15pm The Alcohol Health Alliance has described the government’s decision to reduce duty on some types of alcohol as “disgraceful” and a “slap in the face” for health professionals.

“With over one million alcohol-related hospital attendances every year, our NHS simply cannot afford for alcohol to get cheaper,” said alliance chair Professor Sir Ian Gilmore.

15.01pm Penalties for breaching referral to treatment targets have been toughened up to try to bring down waiting lists in the final standard contract issued by NHS England, but sanctions for accident and emergency and elective treatment breaches have been reduced. Read HSJ’s story here.

14.54pm Here is an at-a-glance summary of key health funding announcements in today’s budget:                    

·         £20million over the next four years for four pilot “connected health cities” in the north of England

·         £1million in 2015-16 to boost the availability of defibrillators in public places and provide training on how to use them

·         Provision of online cognitive behavioural therapy for 40,000 benefits claimants from early 2016

·         More than £1billion over the next five years to ensure an extra 110,000 children and young people get the mental health support they need - this includes £75million over the next five years to support women’s perinatal and antenatal mental health and £118million over the next four years to ensure children with mental health problems can access talking therapies

·         £8.4million over the next five years to expand mental health services for veterans

In addition the government has pledged to look at closer integration of spending for people with “multiple needs” including continuing to join up services with health and social care needs, improving links between health and employment support for those prevented from working because of a health condition and better support for those struggling with homelessness, addiction and mental health problems.

14.36pm The budget does not provide any certainty on long-term funding for the NHS, says The Nuffield Trust.

“All parts of the health service are struggling to meet demand and maintain quality under the financial strain of the last five years. It is likely that the NHS will face extremely ambitious efficiency targets over the next five years, which will require significant changes to the way services are currently run,” said senior fellow in health policy Ruth Thorlby.

“This budget does not give patients and NHS staff any certainty about wider funding plans up to 2020. Yet that is the timescale on which NHS England, rightly, thinks spending must be committed in order to drive improvement and maintain quality.

“Meanwhile, the chancellor’s wider plans for public service cuts mean no immediate prospect of the bleak funding outlook for social care being reversed either.”

14.25pm The NHS Confederation welcomed a real terms increase in NHS funding for 2015-2016 but said it was time for a full and frank debate about future models of health and social care.

“We know this year will be tough for the NHS and the budget confirms this,” said chief executive Rob Webster. “Years of punishing price cuts for providers such as hospitals are taking their toll on NHS care. There is a good chance the additional money in commissioners’ budgets might only just cover the increase in demand, and be insufficient to cover improvements.”  

He said efficiency savings could not be made through price cuts alone. Meanwhile social care was “on its knees and the NHS is feeling the pain”. “All parties need to set out plans for how they would address this as a matter of urgency,” he said.

14.15pm NHS Providers has welcomed plans to invest more cash in children’s and veterans’ mental health but has warned there is still a “mismatch” between demand for NHS services and funding.

“It remains important to understand how and when this critical funding will be distributed,” said chief executive Chris Hopson. “NHS providers need to be able to work with commissioners and make long-term investments in their services to ensure that children and young people consistently receive the care and support they need.

“Mental health services across the board need sustained increases in funding. The larger the gap between rising patient demand and NHS funding grows and the longer this mismatch goes on, the harder it will be to sustain high-quality care for patients and service users.”

14.09pm The government will invest £20million over the next four years to establish four “connected health cities” in the north of England, it was announced as part of today’s budget.

The cash will go to centres in Newcastle, Liverpool, Manchester and a partnership of Leeds and Sheffield as part of the Health North project.

The project will promote the development of improved and innovative models of care through analysis of data on the effectiveness of different, drugs, treatments and health pathways.

14.02pm The Association of Air Ambulances says VAT relief for emergency response charities and an extra £7.5million for air ambulance charities could help save an extra 800 lives a year.

The measures announced in today’s budget give air ambulance charities a VAT saving of approximately £10 million over the next five years.

The chancellor also announced an allocation of £1 million to Great Western Air Ambulance, £1.5 million to Kent Surrey Sussex Air Ambulance Trust and a potential further £5 million to be made available to all air ambulance charities.

13.51pm Ed Miliband claims the government’s budget proposals mean a “secret plan” to make massive cuts to the NHS and social care. “If you devastate social care you betray the elderly and pile unsustainable pressure on the NHS,” he said. That is why the government “can’t be trusted on the NHS”. Labour would use a mansion tax to fund the NHS.

13.46pm Lack of mention of NHS was a “glaring omission” from the budget statement, says Ed Miliband. “Where was that discussion of the the NHS and investment in public services?” he asked.

13.34pm Ed Miliband has said it was extraordinary the budget included “no mention” of investment in the NHS, in his repsonse to the chancellor’s statement.

13.31pm “The economy is stronger in every way to the one we inherited,” claims Mr Osborne as he finishes his budget statement.

13.26pm No change on tobacco duties but government will cut duty on beer for third year in a row with another penny coming off the pint. Cider duty will be reduced by 2% as will the duty on Scotch whisky and other spirits. Wine duty is frozen.

13.18pm Government will invest more in health research. More details to follow.

13.09pm More cash for defibrillators in public places and support for Blood Bikes schemes - rapid response charity service that delivers blood. There will be £10 million more for air ambulances.

13.05pm More measures to curb the size of very large pension pots. From next year, the Lifetime Allowance will be reduced from £1.25m to £1m. This will save around £600m a year, the chancellor says.

12.59pm Budget will include funding for a major expansion of mental health services for children, Mr Osborne confirms.

12.57pm Satisfaction with the NHS is rising year on year, says Mr Osborne, but still work to do and savings to be found.

12.54pm Squeeze on public spending will end a year earlier, says chancellor. Public spending will increase in 2019/20 in line with economy, he says.

12.50pm Plans to tackle national debt by selling bank shares and reducing interest payments will mean more to spend on “public services”, says Mr Osborne.

12.44pm Focus so far on growth in jobs and household income. No mention of health yet. Living standards will be higher in 2015 than 2010, says Mr Osborne.

12.40pm The Office of Budget Responsibility has confirmed Britain’s growth in 2014 was 2.6 per cent. “We are seeing a truly national recovery,” says George Osborne. 2015 growth predicted to be 2.5 per cent.

12.36pm There will be no unfunded spending in the budget, says George Osborne.

12.32pm George Osborne has started the budget statement.

12.20pm Labour MP for Slough Fiona Mactaggart quizzed David Cameron on cancer waiting times at today’s Prime Minister’s Questions. “We have made sure that half a million more people have been referred for cancer treatment, and as a result cancer survival rates are going up,” he responded.

12.07pm Ed Miliband has accused David Cameron of broken promises on A&E waiting times, cancer treatment and “top down” reorganisation of the NHS at today’s Prime Minister’s Questions. “The NHS cannot survive another five years of this government,” Mr Miliband told the House of Commons.

12.03pm NHS Organisations are marking the first National Child Exploitation Awareness Day today.

11.30am One hour to go until budget. Follow developments on HSJ Live.

11.22am Whipps Cross is the poorest performing hospital rated by the Care Quality Commission to date, reveals an analysis by HSJ.

11.04am Morbidly obese people in England should be given a flu jab free on the NHS each year, say government advisers - as reported by The BBC.

Public Health England and the government’s vaccine advisory committee are in agreement that obesity poses enough of a health threat to consider including it as one of the ‘at risk’ groups routinely offered the vaccine.

10.55am More than $100m has been pledged to a global Dementia Discovery Fund to find a cure for the disease, reports The Times.

The sum includes cash from major drugs companies and the charity Alzheimer’s Research UK as well as £15m promised by the UK government.

10.48am Bristol Community Health has appointed Julie Dovey as a non-executive director.

Dr Dovey has worked at University Hospital Bristol Foundation Trust as a consultant in the department of medicine for the elderly and stroke since 2007.

10.44am West Middlesex University Hospital Trust has appointed a new interim chief executive.

Jacqueline Totterdell will take on the role from 1 April. Ms Totterdell was previously chief executive at Southend University Hospital Foundation Trust for four years before moving to Sherwood Forest Hospitals Foundation Trust to help turn around Newark Hospital. More here.

10.41am Medical charity the Wellcome Trust has sold off a £94m stake in the oil company ExxonMobil, reports The Guardian.

10.36am The closure of small pharmacies threatens to overload GPs and accident and emergency departments, warns Graham Phillips from the trade body Pharmacy Voice, writing on The Guardian website.

Mr Phillips, the director of a group of community pharmacies, says: “In less than three weeks nearly 100 small yet essential pharmacies across the country will lose their viability top-up payment from NHS England. Yet the majority of owners, like me, are still stuck in negotiations with local area teams. We have no clarity on future funding. Our patients and staff are angry, anxious and confused.”

10.24am The Department of Health arranged at least £39m in extra ‘essential’ capital funding for foundation trusts where patient safety or ‘ongoing operations’ were at risk because of maintenance backlogs, HSJ can exclusively reveal.

Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act show the workings of the DH’s independent trust finance facility (ITFF) in 2014-15. Read the details here.

10.21am Commissioners have been left with only two weeks to finalise ​potentially complex legal arrangements for taking control of their primary care budgets.

Several clinical commissioning group leaders have told HSJ they are concerned about the lack of time they have to prepare to take on these co-commissioning responsibilities from 1 April, which include overseeing the performance management and budgets for their member GP practices. Read the full story here.

10.16am Babies who are breast-fed for at least 12 months grow up to have higher IQs and could earn an extra £200,000 in their lifetimes than bottle-fed infants, according to a study reported on the front page of The Daily Telegraph.

10.01am Oversight of the contract for NHS’s only privately run hospital was ‘poor and inadequate’ and ‘no one has been held accountable for the consequences’, MPs have said in a report published today.

The criticism from the Commons public accounts committee comes in an update report on Hinchingbrooke Healthcare Trust, following the announcement earlier this year by Circle, the firm managing the hospital, that it was withdrawing early from its 10-year contract.

9.56am Labour’s election proposal to make the NHS exempt from European Union procurement law cannot be implemented unless a future government curbs the independence of foundation trusts, the King’s Fund has said. Read HSJ’s story here.

9.43am Spending on infrastructure such as hospitals, schools and roads has fallen by at least £15bn since the coalition government came to power in 2010, according to figures from the National Audit Office reported in the Financial Times.

Capital investment in health fell by about a quarter, says the spending watchdog. Meanwhile the overall cost of financing private finance initiatives increased from £7bn in 2009-10 to £10bn in 2013-14.

7.00am Good morning. The HSJ Awards 2015 are now open for entries.

There are 22 categories to enter this year, including a new category to showcase the organisation that best improves outcomes through learning and development.

You can enter the awards here. Should you need any help with your entry, please call Flavio Rispo on 020 3033 2350 or email