Here is a letter from the Office of National Statistics to the Government's Health Secretary informing him that the NHS budget has in fact been cut and asking him clarify statements where he claims otherwise.
Dear Mr Hunt
PUBLIC EXPENDITURE ON HEALTH
The Statistics Authority has been asked to consider, in the light of the published official statistics, various statements made by the Prime Minister, by yourself, and on the Conservative Party website. For example, you said in the House of Commons on 23 October that “real-terms spending on the NHS has increased across the country” and the Conservative Party website states that “we have increased the NHS budget in real terms in each of the last two years”.
We are aware that there are questions of definition here. The year on year changes in real terms have been small and the different sources, including the Department of Health Annual Report and Accounts and the public expenditure figures issued by the Treasury, are not necessarily exactly the same.
The most authoritative source of National Statistics on the subject would seem to be the Treasury publication Public Spending Statistics, and I note that these figures were used in a Department of Health Press Release in July 2012. The most recent update to those figures was published on 31 October but the July 2012 release gives a more detailed breakdown. I attach a note prepared by staff of the Statistics Authority summarising some of the relevant figures from the two Public Spending releases.
On the basis of these figures, we would conclude that expenditure on the NHS in real terms was lower in 2011-12 than it was in 2009-10. Given the small size of the changes and the uncertainties associated with them, it might also be fair to say that real terms expenditure had changed little over this period. In light of this, I should be grateful if the Department of Health could clarify the statements made.
I am copying this to the Cabinet Secretary, to the Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health and to the National Statistician.
Andrew Dilnot CBE