A long-term funding plan to stop the NHS being hit by funding crises will be put in place this year, Theresa May has announced.
The Prime Minister admitted the health service “can’t afford to wait” until the planned review of public spending in 2019 and told MPs she wanted changes to be made during its 70th anniversary year.
Appearing before the Commons Liaison committee, Mrs May said the Government needed to get away from annual top-ups of the health service budget.
The service is facing “serious cost and demand pressures” and “we can’t afford to wait until next Easter”, the PM told MPs.
“I think in this 70th anniversary year of the NHS’s foundation we need an answer on this,” she added.
Conservative Sarah Wollaston, who chairs the health and social care committee, had warned there was an urgent need to reform funding for the service.
Mrs May said: “I want that to be done in conjunction with leaders of the NHS, with clinicians and health experts and the Government will provide a multi-year funding settlement in support of the plan, consistent with our fiscal rules and balanced approach but ensuring the NHS can cope with the rising demand ahead of the spending review.”
The Prime Minister said she was “eternally grateful to the NHS” and told the group of select committee chairs she hopes “no-one doubts my personal commitment” to the service.
“I rely on the NHS every day as a diabetic,” she added.
Asked if more money was going to be put into the service, she replied: “What I want to do is develop a long-term plan for the NHS and then ensure that that is properly resourced.
“By definition we have already committed to putting more money into the NHS over the coming years so, yes, more money will be going in.”
The PM insisted funding “isn’t the only answer” to the health service’s problems and insisted there needed to be accountability for “every pound that is spent”.
“There is another element, which is about looking at how we can all take more responsibility for our health so that the pressures on the NHS are reduced,” she added.
NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said: “The Prime Minister’s announcement of a funded long-term plan for the NHS this year is very welcome, timely and significant.
“The NHS celebrates seven decades of service this July, at a time of great pressure on frontline staff and great promise for improved care. So now is absolutely the right time to recommit to all that’s best about our NHS, while also accelerating and capitalising on the huge promise of medical advance for the decade ahead.
“Charting a multi-year path for modern efficient and sensibly funded health and social care could mean huge gains for cancer patients, mental health services and support for frail older people, as well as the several million nurses, doctors and other care staff who devote their lives to looking after us.”