RCPCH responds to the Chancellor's Autumn statement

Today the Chancellor of the Exchequer has announced his Autumn statement.

The statement aims to stabilise the economy and includes: 

  • Working age benefits will rise by 10.1%
  • The UK Government is investing an additional £3.3 billion in each of 2023-24 and 2024-25 in NHS in England.
  • On staff shortages, the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England will publish an independently verified plan we will need in 5, 10- and 15-years' time. 

In response to the statement, RCPCH President, Dr Camilla Kingdon said:

It’s reassuring to see the Government respond to our calls in the Autumn statement for benefits to rise in line with inflation and assistance with energy bills for lower-income households. We know first-hand how worrying this upcoming winter has been for families, with many already making stark choices between heating, eating, or going into debt. Although not having a commitment to extend free school meals is a real disappointment, we know that today’s announcement will provide some relief to many families with children. 

Financial support alone will not tackle the root cause of child poverty in our wealthy nation. The Government’s much anticipated White Paper on Health Disparities is well past due when action is sorely needed. We urgently need a plan that includes an explicit focus on reducing child poverty, and that considers the role of every department and every available policy in tackling inequalities, including those that start in childhood. As healthcare professionals, we know that child poverty exacerbates chronic conditions, obesity, and poor mental health. Today, there are almost 4 million children living in poverty. The impact of this will be felt far into the future by individuals, our public services and economy. In this period of recession, the Government must not forget to put children at the heart of its policy making and invest in a healthy and sustainable future for all.

It is promising to hear the Chancellor finally announce an independent assessment of NHS workforce needs. A multi-year, fully funded workforce plan is long-overdue, urgently needed, and action must be taken to address endemic staff shortages as demand for child health services and pressures on paediatricians rise. This plan is a step in the right direction to help ensure the NHS can meet demand over the long term but must be accompanied by the necessary funding and a clear timeline for publication. 

We must also remember how hard paediatricians are working today and ensure that real support is provided to meet their wellbeing needs so they can continue to provide the best care, but without further support the workforce will continue to struggle to meet demands. Now is the time to start prioritising the wellbeing of our incredible workforce.