March 27, 2018 / 7:00 PM / 6 months ago

UK's May, heeding voter concerns, signals higher health spending

LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Theresa May held out the prospect of a new approach to public health spending on Tuesday, a latest sign that she wants to head off concerns among voters about strains in the National Health System (NHS).

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street in Westminster, London, Britain, March 26, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

May said she wanted her government to come up with a long-term plan for health spending which should come sooner than a planned broad review of public spending next year.

“We need to – I think – get away from the annual approach we see to the NHS budget,” May told lawmakers. “The government will provide a multi-year funding settlement in support of the plan consistent with our fiscal rules.”

The Sunday Times newspaper reported at the weekend that the government could spend up to 4 billion pounds ($5.7 billion) a year more over 10 years as it seeks to head off one of the main policy promises of the opposition Labour Party.

Finance minister Philip Hammond this month agreed to relax a seven-year squeeze on the pay of many health workers as the country’s budget deficit continued to narrow.

Britain’s healthcare system, which delivers free care for all and accounts for a third of government spending on public services, is one of the most important issues for voters and is often regarded as a weakness for May’s Conservative party.

($1 = 0.7060 pounds)

Writing by William Schomberg; Editing by Robin Pomeroy

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