Government spending plans for 2020/21: what it means for people with arthritis

Graceila sat in her living room looking at the camera.

Today, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sajid Javid, announced the government’s plans for public spending in 2020 to 2021. Earlier in the year, it was expected that the government would be setting out plans for the next five years of public funding, called a Spending Review. However, due to the ongoing uncertainty around the UK’s exit from the EU, it was changed to a shorter, one-year Spending Round.

What is the Spending Round?

Versus Arthritis would normally submit a formal response to the Treasury in advance, explaining what funding changes would support people with arthritis. This time, due to the short timeframe for this Spending Round we instead decided to work directly with senior civil servants in key government departments, providing information and evidence to try and influence the budget. We’ve reviewed the announcement and discussed the most important areas for people with arthritis below.

Public health support

People with arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions can benefit greatly from public health support, such as help to stay active, and we were involved in supporting Public Health England’s new strategy on musculoskeletal conditions that was launched earlier this year.

However, it is important that these ambitions are properly funded, so last March, alongside more than 80 other organisations, we signed the Consensus Statement on Sustainable funding for Public Health. As set out in the Statement, we called on the Government to increase investment in public health in England to prevent ill health, reduce health inequalities, and support a sustainable health and social care system. Therefore, we welcome the announcement of a real terms increase to the Public Health Grant budget. We hope that some of this funding will be directed towards providing support for people with arthritis in their communities.

NHS funding ‘boost’

As previously outlined by the Prime Minister, and in-line with the previously agreed plans, the government announced £6.2 billion for health, both on everyday spending and also to upgrade hospitals and continue implementing the NHS Long Term Plan.

While further funding for NHS services is welcome, we need to see urgent improvements in the quality of healthcare services and outcomes for people with arthritis. Too many people are waiting longer than they should have to for joint replacement operations on NHS lists, often having to deal with agonising pain every day. Versus Arthritis will continue to campaign for a long-term sustainable solution to the current waiting times crisis for joint replacement surgery.

Spending on social care

The Chancellor announced increased funding for local authorities, with some funds specifically to be used for social care support. While this £1.5 billion is a welcome ‘down-payment’ to tackling the current social care funding crisis, a long-term sustainable solution is urgently required. Our research has shown that aids and adaptations at home improve quality of life for people with arthritis and help them to be independent. However, cuts to local authority funding means that some people can’t access these. We need to ensure that the additional funding announced today is used to help people with arthritis get support when they need it.

What’s next

We’ll continue to campaign to ensure that the experiences of people with arthritis are heard and their needs prioritised, especially next year when the full Spending Review is announced. We’ll expect that to cover not just the areas discussed above, but also other priorities such as support to help people with arthritis to remain in work, and funding that enhances our research on new treatments and breakthroughs.

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