NHS chief Simon Stevens to demand NHS cash pledged by Leave campaign

Posted On: 
8th November 2017

The pledge by Vote Leave to provide £350m a week for the NHS ahead of the Brexit referendum should be honoured, the head of England’s NHS is expected to say.

Vote Leave's campaign bus used prior to June 2016's referendum
Credit: 
PA Images

Simon Stevens will use controversial claims by the campaign to take Britain out of the EU last year to mount a case for increased spending.

Prior to the vote, campaigners, including now cabinet ministers, claimed £350m a week that was currently sent to the EU could be invested in the NHS following Brexit.

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The claims were widely contested at the time by independent bodies, who argued the figures did not account for the UK’s rebate nor the fact the UK benefited from EU investment.

The highly political speech by Mr Stevens at the NHS Providers' annual conference of health managers comes just weeks before the Chancellor’s budget

"The NHS wasn't on the ballot paper, but it was on the Battle Bus. Vote Leave for a better funded health service - £350m a week,” he will say.

"Rather than our criticising these clear Brexit funding commitments to NHS patients - promises entered into by cabinet ministers and by MPs - the public want to see them honoured.

"Trust in democratic politics will not be strengthened if anyone now tries to argue: 'You voted Brexit, partly for a better funded health service. But precisely because of Brexit, you now can't have one.'

"A modern NHS is itself part of the practical answer to the deep social concerns that gave rise to Brexit.”

Mr Stevens will add that the NHS brings people together “at a time of national division” as an institution that “tops the list of what people say makes them proudest to be British.”

“Ahead of the Army, the monarchy or the BBC. Unifying young and old, town and country, the struggling and the better off," he will add.

His calls come after influential health think-tanks - the King's Fund, the Nuffield Trust and the Health Foundation - publish a joint report calling for an extra £4bn to be spent on the health next year.

The Government has pledged a real terms increase of £8bn a year to the NHS frontline budget by 2022 than it is now, but critics say when services such as those around healthy lifestyles land stop smoking services are accounted for – the current average annual increase amounts to less than 1%.