Spending review 2020: what it means for people with arthritis.

27 November 2020

This year’s spending review included increased spending for the NHS, and a welcome boost to research funding.

What will this mean for people with arthritis, and what further action is needed?

About the Spending Review

On 25 November, Rishi Sunak delivered his first Spending Review as the Chancellor. This set out the Government’s major spending plans for 2021-2.

The Office for Budget Responsibility also published its forecast for public finances, highlighting uncertainty due to the pandemic and Brexit. The outlook was bleak, the UK’s annual output is set to be the lowest in over 300 years, and unemployment is expected to rise to 7.5% by Spring 2021.

Our policy team contributed to the consultation ahead of the Spending Review, setting out our views on the most important areas of budget to support people with arthritis and related conditions across the NHS, public health, social care, employment and research. In some of these areas the Spending Review did at least give positive news.

Impact on people with arthritis

Together with new funding to tackle the pandemic and for hospitals, facilities and staff training, an extra £3 billion was provided to support NHS’ recovery from the pandemic. This included £1 billion to begin to tackle the back-log in planned (elective) care.

We welcome this investment as through our Impossible to Ignore campaign, we've been calling for action to safely bring down waiting lists for joint replacements. We know that these types of treatment were some of the worst affected by the pandemic and some of the slowest to being to be restarted in the summer.

We will keep pushing to ensure as much of the £1 billion investment in elective care as possible will go towards bringing joint replacement waiting lists down safely.

We fund research which has made life-changing breakthroughs in treatment and healthcare of people with arthritis. Alongside other research partners we wanted to Government to increase investment in research and development (R&D) overall, and also to support charities to continue vital research work.

The Government’s Spending Review pledges to ‘cement the UK’s future as a scientific superpower’ and to raise investment in R&D to 2.4% of GDP by 2027 were welcome. As were multi-year investments in major research bodies including UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), and an increase in the budget of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) for 2021-2.

The charity sector will, however, continue to push for clarity on how this investment will support research through charities including Versus Arthritis.

In other areas the news was less positive. Beyond spending related to the pandemic, there was no increase in public health funding to help to tackle the underlying causes of poor health. This is disappointing given the joint call from charities to use the Spending Review as a chance to reverse recent public health spending cuts.

Although Local Authorities will be able to raise more money locally to fund social care, work to bring forward a long-term solution is again delayed. The Spending Review did include a pledge to support people with health conditions or disability to be in work, but without further detail.

Get involved

We need to make sure that arthritis is kept high on the agenda as politicians work through the COVID-19 pandemic, and the voices of people with arthritis are the most powerful resource we have. 

Join our campaign network and find out about our work to influence Government.

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