“The NHS, as you know, it’s the biggest increase in living memory, a £34bn increase”

Boris Johnson interview, Nick Ferrari on LBC

November 29, 2019

Claim

The prime minister argued that the Conservative Party’s plans for the NHS include the biggest increase in funding in living memory, a figure of £34 billion.

Facts

This is a claim the prime minister and has made on numerous occasions. It has been repeated on social media. Johnson's Conservatives have gone on asserting that they are putting record sums into the NHS despite the claim being debunked by fact-checking websites. So it's worth going through the underlying facts. 

With a growing and aging population and the discovery of many new treatments, the NHS has grown exponentially since its inception in 1948.  It is unsurprising that the amount spent funding it has also risen almost every year.    

To compare Johnson’s NHS funding pledge to past spending on the NHS requires taking account of inflation, which causes the value of the pound to fall year by year. Adjusted for inflation, the £34 billion comes down to £20.5 billion. That’s an increase in the Conservative government’s spending on the NHS in recent years but, for instance, not close to the £24 billion a year spent on average by the Labour government up to 2009.

It is also important to note that the government recently split total health spending between NHS and non-NHS spending, such as IT, preventative care, buildings and training. Spending on non-NHS services will fall by over 12% in In 2019/20 and 2020/21, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies. This is not reflected in the £34 billion figure but is bound to have an impact on services in the NHS.

The respected health think tank, The King’s Fund, wrote of the  Conservative manifesto’s health proposals: “the overall funding package pledged for frontline NHS services is less generous than the offers from the other major political parties and doesn’t represent a comprehensive funding plan that includes workforce training, capital funding, adult social care or public health.” 

Verdict

Johnson’s claim is a lie. It is an especially disreputable lie because he has uttered it incessantly, even though it has been disproved again and again. Johnson's repeated lie about NHS spending fits into a pattern. The prime minister has also repeatedly lied about building 40 new NHS hospitals. This readiness to lie about NHS spending and hospitals suggests that no statement made by the prime minister can be trusted, and renders worthless his insistence that the NHS is not on the table for any trade talks with the United States.

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