The NHS in England is to get an extra £20bn a year by 2023 as a 70th “birthday present”, Theresa May says. It means the £114bn budget will rise by an average of 3.4% annually – but that is still less than the 3.7% average rise the NHS has had since 1948. The prime minister said this would be funded partly by a “Brexit dividend”, but also hinted at tax rises. Labour said the government had failed to fund the NHS properly and was relying on a “hypothetical” windfall. Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said Labour’s taxation plans meant his party could match the Conservatives’ spending plans and “will go further”. In her BBC interview, Mrs May did not spell out how the £20bn a year would be funded but said: “As a country we will be contributing more, a bit more, but also we will have that sum of money that is available from the European Union.” But Commons Health and Social Care Committee chairwoman Sarah Wollaston described the idea of a Brexit dividend as “tosh”. The Conservative MP accused the government of using “populist arguments rather than evidence”. And the director of economic think tank the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), Paul Johnson, has tweeted to say “there is no Brexit dividend”. The five-year funding settlement covers just front-line budgets overseen by NHS England. About a 10th of the overall health budget is held by other bodies for things such as training and healthy lifestyle programmes, including stop smoking services and obesity prevention programmes. The BBC understands these will be protected, but beyond that it is unclear what will happen to them. The 2015 spending review – the last time a five-year settlement was announced – saw these budgets cut to help pay for an £8bn increase in NHS England’s budget.

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