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Has NHS spending increased year on year?


The NHS needs more money every year in every nation of the UK. But do the SNP’s claims about record spending levels stack up?

The Claim:

“Health spending has increased year-on-year.”

Nicola Sturgeon

First Minister’s Questions,

Thursday, October 25th, 2018


The facts

  • Between 2016/17 and 2017/18, the overall health budget increased by 1.5 per cent in cash terms. But taking inflation into account, the budget decreased by 0.2 per cent. (Source: Audit Scotland)

  • Three health boards required a loan from the Scottish Government last year and the majority relied on short-term measures to balance their books. (Source: Audit Scotland)

  • The best like-for-like comparison suggests the Scottish Government estimate for funding growth for the NHS over the next five years is around 3.5% in annual, cash-terms - compared to around 6.7% estimated for England. (Source: report by independent economist John McLaren)

What the experts say

“The overall health budget in 2017/18 was £13.1 billion, a 0.2 per cent decrease in real terms on the previous year. The NHS struggled to break even.

Three boards required a loan from the Scottish Government and the majority relied on short-term measures to balance their books. NHS boards achieved unprecedented savings of £449.1 million in 2017/18 by relying heavily on one-off savings.


This is not sustainable.”

Audit Scotland report, NHS in Scotland 2018.


 “The Scottish Government’s recently published medium-term financial plans for health and social care do not allow for a clear picture to emerge of future funding needs.


This confusingly presented document appears to suggest that Scottish funding needs in this area are considerably below those estimated for England. It is difficult to see why this would be the case.”

Independent economist John McLaren.


Scotland in Union Fact Check Conclusion:

When making year-on-year spending comparisons, it is important to take account of inflation and calculate figures in real-terms. Nicola Sturgeon is therefore misleading voters when she claims that health spending has increased year-on-year.


Spending-per-head on health services have traditionally been higher in Scotland than the UK as a whole. But spending increases in Scotland are set to increase at a slower rate than in England in the coming years, increasing the pressure on the NHS.

 The NHS in Scotland is in crisis, and is failing to hit performance standards. Scotland needs a government focused on the day job of fixing our valued health service.


Has NHS spending increased

year-on year?

In real terms, NHS Scotland's budget has decreased this year.  We need a Scottish Government dedicated to supporting our NHS, not distracted by its obsession with indyref2



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