New Statesman, Independent and UK Statistic Authority Chairman wrong on NHS 'cuts'

It'll come as no surprise as to why ideologically driven outlets are spinning incorrectly on NHS cuts - here's the real skinny

by COMMENTATOR FACT CHECK on 10 December 2012 11:58

No prizes for guessing why the New Statesman and the Independent have taken upon a Labour campaign to force the government into 'admitting' that NHS spending is actually falling.

But the truth is that Andy Burnham MP's partisan point-scoring tactic has presumably been bought hook, line and sinker by those who are supposed to be independent on the matter - principally, Andrew Dilnot CBE, the Chairman of the UK Statistics Authority.

He wrote last week to the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt MP, stating: "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."

Of course, this is a blow to Cameroon's claiming that NHS spending has been ring-fenced or even increased over the past few years. The New Statesman indeed took great pleasure in highlighting Dilnot's letter. But the facts are more nuanced than the left would have you believe.

Indeed while Dilnot shows that public expenditure has risen from £99.8bn to £104.3bn in the period from 2009-2012, the Treasury also shows that due to the upkick in inflation between 2010 and 2011, real terms spending can be considered to have been 'cut' by 0.84 percent. This claim backs Burnham's suggestions that 'you can't trust the Tories with the NHS'. 

But what Dilnot failed to report is that over the years in question, both the capital and administration budgets have been slashed respectively with a view to pumping more public cash into frontline services. 

The public will be interested to know that the administration budget for the NHS dropped from £5.5bn under Labour's last year, to just £3.5bn in 2011-12. This means that fewer paper pushers and middle managers are walking away with NHS cash, and more is being delivered to front-line services and treatment costs.

A further point that has been made is that the 2010/11 budget that fell in real terms by 0.84 percent, a cut which the New Statesman has called 'significant' - was likely set by the last Labour government. Since financial years run from April - March and the General Election was not until May 2010 - the cut is almost certainly a result of Labour's spending plans, rather than that of the Conservatives.

This assumption would also explain the high level of administrative spending in 2010/11, a statistic that is unlikely to have come about under the coalition government's implemented plans. We see the fall in administrative spending come into play one year after a new government was formed.

In 2011/12, real terms spending rose, according to Dilnot, by 0.09 percent - further evidence that the coalition's commitments have indeed been adhered to.

So did Dilnot know this, and intentionally avoid raising it? Or has he been duped by Labour's spin? 

To suggest the head of the UK Statistics Authority can be easily misled is a reach. So the question must be asked, why has Dilnot failed to report all the facts.

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