“I want to stress, this is new money. This is new money”
Boris Johnson, announcing £1.8 billion for the NHS
Johnson announced there would be “£1.8 billion more for the NHS to buy vital new kit and confirm new upgrades for 20 hospitals across the country” in a Sunday Times article on 4 August. The following day, this figure was repeated in a government press release, which referred to a £1.8 billion NHS cash injection which included “a £1 billion boost to NHS capital spending.” Johnson told reporters that “I want to stress, this is new money. This is new money” and “don’t forget that this is £1.8 billion of new money. It wasn’t there 10 days ago.”
Health Seretary Matthew Hancock told ITV News: “There’s £1.8 billion increase in the NHS capital budget — every single penny is extra money allocated from the Treasury. “Some of that means that I can unlock investments that hospitals wanted to do. In other cases, I’m able to announce new investments that have gone into some areas but every single penny of the £1.8 billion is newly allocated from the Treasury.
Health experts were quick to point out that describing this as “new” money was misleading. The £1 billion figure for an increase in capital spending was actually an example of the Treasury freeing up money that had already been saved by NHS trusts. Sally Gainsbury of the Nuffield Trust health think tank wrote: “The truth is that NHS leaders across the country won’t see this billion as extra funding, but rather the removal of a freeze on cash they already have.”
“That’s because it matches a pot of cash that NHS trusts already earned last year, in return for stretching their efficiency to breaking point, on a subsequently broken promise that they could invest it.”
She added: “To claim this as new money is like finally giving back the £10 you borrowed some time ago — expecting to be applauded widely.”
After assessing the views of health professionals, Channel 4’s FactCheck concluded: “Boris Johnson announced £1.8 billion of “new money” for the NHS, but the word “new” is doing a lot of hard work here.
“If the Nuffield Trust’s account is correct — and we’ve seen no evidence that the government disputes it — then £1 billion of the funding is money that NHS providers effectively earned as a reward from making savings in other areas.”
Boris Johnson’s claims that he was providing £1.8 billion for the NHS was misleading. Health Secretary Matt Hancock was quick to echo Johnson’s falsehood.