Tackling inflation, protecting public services and investing in infrastructure were at the heart of Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s visit to Birmingham today, where he met NHS staff working on the frontline and reiterated his commitment to a major new rail line.
The Chancellor visited Solihull Hospital, run by University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, where he saw the Minor Injuries Unit which is being remodelled and spoke to patients and students before leading a roundtable with doctors and nurses.
While in the region he also saw progress on the site of HS2’s new Interchange Station in Solihull, which will serve Solihull, Birmingham Airport and the NEC event space once HS2 is operational in the early 2030s. Hosted by HS2 Ltd’s CEO Mark Thurston, alongside West Midlands Mayor, Andy Street, the Chancellor was shown the site of the new station, the roundabout under construction and met with apprentices.
His visit follows last week’s Autumn Statement where he vowed to tackle inflation by prioritising economic stability and bringing debt down in the medium term, whilst protecting the most vulnerable and vital public services.
As part of that statement, the Chancellor announced that up to £8 billion is being made available for the NHS and social care to improve access to urgent and emergency care and get waiting times down. The funding boost will also mean about twice as many people can be released from hospital into care every day from 2024.
The Chancellor also reaffirmed that the government is maintaining public capital investment at record levels, delivering £600 billion over the next five years. This includes transforming our railways and committing to deliver HS2 to Manchester.
Following the visit, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, said: "As a former Health Secretary, I know how hard NHS staff are working on the frontline and the scale of the challenges they face after the pandemic – meeting some of them today in Solihull underlined this for me.
“We know we need to tackle inflation – our number one enemy that’s making everyone poorer. But we also need to protect our vital public services which is why I announced further funding for the NHS and Social Care last week.
“I also want to help the economy grow, which is why we are investing £600 billion in high quality infrastructure like the new station I visited today – supporting jobs and spreading opportunity across the UK."
As part of the health package announced at Autumn Statement, the NHS has committed to publish full recovery plans for the urgent and emergency care and primary care systems, including interim milestones, in the new year.
These plans will set out detailed ambitions for recovery to deliver faster ambulance response times for Category 2 incidents, year on year reductions in A&E waiting times over 2023-24 and 2024-25 and improved access to general practice, so that everyone who needs an appointment with their GP practice can get one within two weeks and those who need an urgent appointment can get one on the same day.