NHS leaders and opposition parties have made a last ditch call to the chancellor to allocate addition funding to health, though there are indications there will be something in the budget for social care.
Around an extra billion pounds is expected to be announced to prop up the ailing social care system, but commentators have already warned it will be insufficient and the NHS needs more as well.
“The government needs to stem the financial crisis in adult social care by an immediate cash injection”
The 2017 budget statement on Wednesday will be the first delivered by Philip Hammond since he joined the Treasury in July last year.
There will be spring budget next year, as Mr Hammond plans to merge it with the autumn statement later in the year into one combined fiscal statement, the first of which will be given this November.
Last week, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens indicated he was not expecting any extra money in the budget for health but any money for social care would be a “win, win” for the NHS.
Speaking at a Nuffield Trust summit on Friday, Mr Stevens said he has “been clearly making the case for social care” to the government to allocate more funding.
“[If] at least some of it is appropriately targeted at helping people who need social care but who are stuck in hospital, then that would produce the double benefit of releasing some capacity in hospitals, which will then improve the quality of A&E services,” he said.
Major concerns have been raised about the level of capital available to the NHS, as it will need to rise significantly in order to fulfil the ambitions set out in sustainability and transformation plans.
However, Mr Stevens noted that he was “not expecting” what he described as the health service’s “capital questions to be resolved at this juncture”.
“Obviously, the principal fiscal event for this year will be in November and those are obviously decisions for the chancellor and prime minister,” he said, in relation to the autumn statement. But Mr Stevens added: “We do need capital; we’ve said that from the get go.”
Meanwhile, ahead of the budget, the NHS Confederation called for immediate extra funding for social care and a commitment to deal with longer term funding issues for both it and healthcare.
“The committee’s report adds to the overwhelming evidence that the social care system is on its knees”
Over the weekend, an influential cross-party committee of MPs called on the government to immediately bring forward £1.5bn from its better care fund to plug the hole in social care funding.
The move would be a vital first step towards easing the severe strain on the sector, the communities and local government committee, said on Saturday.
Ahead of this week’s announcement from the chancellor, the committee published findings from a major inquiry into the funding and quality of local authority social care services.
In its Pre-Budget report on adult social care, it acknowledged councils’ efforts to protect budgets but said there was evidence vulnerable people were not getting the care they needed.
Despite measures already taken to provide new sources of funding – such as the social care precept, improved better care fund and the adult social care fund – it concluded a “funding gap” still remained and urged government to commit to closing that gap up to 2020.
It recommended bringing forward the 2019-10 tranche of the better care fund money to fill the gap in 2017-18, on top of the £105m of better care fund already allocated for the coming year.
Richard Humphries, senior policy fellow at the King’s Fund think-tank, said: “The committee’s report adds to the overwhelming evidence that the social care system is on its knees. We estimate that the sector faces a funding gap of around £2bn next year, so it is essential the chancellor addresses this in next week’s budget.”
He said: “Additional funding in the budget would provide welcome relief for older and disabled people, their families and carers who are being let down by the current system – and for hard-pressed councils and providers struggling to keep it afloat.”
Professor Martin Green, chief executive for Care England, said: “The government needs to stem the financial crisis in adult social care by an immediate cash injection followed by a longer term plan.
”Care England calls upon the Treasury to use the budget as a means to put social care on a proper safe footing,” he added.
Labour too, called for £2bn to be given to the sector in response to the expectations of funding for social care in Wednesday’s budget.
“The government must put in this upfront investment without delay”
Barbara Keeley, the party’s spokeswoman for social care and mental health, said any additional money for social care was “of course welcome”, but that £5bn had been cut from adult social care in the last seven years.
“Labour is calling on the government to put £2bn into the budget for social care,” she said. “There is also an urgent need for a longer-term funding plan to get social care out of the current crisis and on to a more stable footing.”
Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats called for an extra £4bn funding in the 2017-18 budget for both the NHS and social care services.
It recommended £2bn additional funding for social care, plus £1.5bn transformation funding to deliver modernisation and improve efficiency in the NHS, and £500m dedicated to mental health.
Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb said: “It is time for a new deal for our NHS and care services.
“Services are at crisis point. Patients can’t wait any longer,” he said. “That is why the government must put in this upfront investment without delay.”