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Autumn Budget a ‘missed opportunity’ RCEM says, amid significant bed shortages ahead of winter

22 November 2023

RCEM has described today’s Autumn Statement as a ‘missed opportunity’, amid significant bed shortages ahead of winter.

Despite announcing a raft of measures totalling 110, there was nothing significant for the health service in the Autumn Statement – with any measure being repeats of previous commitments or funding pledges such the delivery of a long-term workforce plan and plans to create the first ‘smokefree generation’.

The main headline was a reduction in National Insurance from 12% to 10% which will come into effect in January, and an increase in the National Living wage taking it to £11.44 an hour.

But there was nothing significant or new for health care despite increasing number of people on waiting lists, increasingly poor A&E performance figures, warnings from health care leaders, and seasonal winter pressures looming.

Dr Ian Higginson, Vice President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said:

“Today’s budget is a serious missed opportunity for the government. It was the ideal moment to provide much-needed signals around funding priorities as we enter what is a predictably  challenging time for the NHS.

“We are at a critical time, and decisions not to prioritise investment in health and social care are a concern.

“We do not have enough beds in our hospitals. They are vital for the system to operate as it should, allowing patients who need them to move on from A&E and reduce the pressure there. Neither do we have enough staff in our departments or hospitals and both community based services and social care feel similar pressures.

“Whilst we have strongly advocated against repeated last minute, short term, cash injections to meet predictable seasonal pressures, we can’t keep kicking the can down the road by ignoring the problem.

“Every journey needs a first step, and it would have been good to see a first step in the right direction here.

“We, and other experts, have been cautioning the government and advising them what is needed to avoid another catastrophic winter like we experienced last year.

“We are really worried that we are in for yet more of the heartbreaking scenes of vulnerable patients being forced to wait for hours on trolleys in overflowing A&Es, and queues of ambulances backed up in hospital car parks.”

The Autumn Statement followed Prime Minister’s Questions today in which the Leader of the Opposition, Sir Keir Starmer MP, pointed out the omission of Health Care from the Government’s latest set of Five Point Priorities, while highlighting the poor state of mental healthcare  and the increasing elective care waiting lists.

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