Kings Fund withdrawal of accusation of ‘sleight of hand’ & DH still tweeting

Yesterday 2020health blogged on the King’s Fund accusation of dishonesty of claims that the Conservative Party could fund more cancer drugs by savings made from a rise in National Insurance.

This accusation, as we pointed out yesterday, is factually incorrect and an apology was issued by the think tank. The Tory party claim the scheme would save the NHS £200m a year via NI contributions for staff, giving doctors more power to choose which drugs are made available. However the King’s Fund’s economist claimed the cash was “not there to be saved” and that money would have to be taken away from other services funded from the year’s budget. Many new cancer drugs are being turned down to masses or are restricted to a small proportion of NHS patients, and access to these vital drugs should be widened. Yesterday Mr Appleby featured on BBC Radio 4, stating that “The £200m they say will be needed to fund extra cancer drugs essentially has to come out of the current budget. That means stopping something else for other people. “It’s a sleight of hand in the sense that the money is not there to be saved.”

The King’s Fund shortly issued an apology stating that Mr Appleby’s intention was not to imply that there was anything dishonest about the Tory proposals – “If the phrase ‘sleight of hand’ used when commenting earlier today suggested this, he would wish to withdraw it.”

The £200m has been budgeted for by local Primary Care Trusts since the NI increase was introduced over a year ago and had to be accounted for. This money can now be freed up for use in other services by PCTs.

On another note –

Mike O’Brien, Health Minister, has announced £2m extra funding for improving mental health services in the military. This investment for armed forces veterans from the Department of Health aims to work with voluntary organisations to provide high quality and personalised mental and social health care to those who are making the often difficult transition from military to civilian life.

Mike O’Brien stated ‘This new funding will mean even further improvements for veterans and will ensure they can access mental health services more easily, whenever they need them.’ There is no denying that Britain’s brave military forces deserve the finest healthcare possible, but why is the Department of Health announced this extra funding on the same day the date of the election was revealed, bearing in mind their supposed ‘impartiality’? According to official guidelines on election procedure (http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/media/354815/2010electionguidance.pdf), the cabinet office clearly states under Press and Media activities: ‘c. Press releases and other material normally sent to Members of Parliament should cease on the Dissolution of Parliament’. Now, I know Parliament isn’t dissolved yet, but other Departments immediately sent messages out via twitter and the like that no announcements would now be forthcoming until after the election. DH is doing it’s own thing, obviously…

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