Prime minister David Cameron was accused last night of breaking the coalition’s pledge to increase funding for the NHS as soaring inflation threatened to undermine the government’s spending plans.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said the government was now “sailing extremely close to the wind” over its promise to raise NHS spending in real terms every year of the current parliament.
The IFS said the worsening economic outlook meant there was now a 30% chance chancellor George Osborne would have to put up taxes or find further spending cuts if he was to meet his deficit reduction plans.
Labour went further arguing that Mr Osborne would have to find another £1.8bn over the course of the next four years if the government was to honour its commitments on the NHS.
Health secretary Andrew Lansley, however, insisted that the government would meet its pledge and accused the opposition of spreading “scare stories”.
Labour meanwhile published figures that showed a real terms cut of around 1% in NHS spending over the next four years.
Shadow health secretary John Healey said that if the “double counting” of social care budgets as NHS spending was taken into account, the NHS in England was facing a cut of £1.8 billion - a 1.8% real terms reduction.
“Real terms spending will fall next year and again the year after, and this will in fact be the first time since records began that the NHS in England has seen a real terms fall in spending for two years running,” he said.
“If you add in his trick of double counting social care budgets, David Cameron is cutting the NHS by a massive £1.8bn.”
However, Mr Lansley said that the government was investing £11.5bn in the NHS which Labour had opposed.
“John Healey continues to use the NHS as a political football to spread scare stories that do not hold up to scrutiny,” he said.
“We will increase the NHS budget in real terms every year - and the independent experts have already confirmed that this is happening.”
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