Experts have demanded a Parliamentary inquiry be held into Theresa May’s plan to boost NHS funding by £20bn.
A report by the Institute for Government (IfG) said the Prime Minister had not been “entirely straight” with the public over how she intends to finance the landmark move, which will provide the health service with a 3.4% annual budget hike - the equivalent of an extra £384m a week by 2023.
Chancellor Philip Hammond will deliver a speech on Thursday in which he will say taxpayers can expect to pay more “in a fair and balanced way” to bolster the move, effectively ruling out the possibility of further borrowing.
Announcing her plans earlier this week, May promised some of the money would be recouped through a so-called “Brexit dividend” - cash the UK is expected to recoup when it leaves the EU next year.
But the IfG dismissed the suggestion as “illusory”, claiming that the government’s own forecasts disprove the idea of a dividend. The theory has also been rubbished by several economists and MPs.
“Unless there is a clear way to raise the additional money, it will have to come from cuts to other parts of public expenditure, where there is little low-hanging fruit left to pick,” its report read.
Arguing that a “minority government muddling through” was unlikely to find a solution on its own, researchers suggested a Parliamentary inquiry made up of a group of high-profile cross-party MPs and peers would offer the Conservatives “political cover” to implement policies which may otherwise be unpopular.
An independent body such as the Office for Budget Responsibility should also scrutinise government spending to ensure better delivery of services, the think tank said.
Meanwhile, former shadow health minister Liz Kendall called on the PM to re-consider cross-party work on the funding plan.
“We cannot put the NHS on a stable financial footing without securing a long-term funding settlement for social care. And the Government needs to be straight with the public about how we will pay for both,” the Labour MP said.
“As we saw in the 2010 and 2017 elections, any party that puts forward radical proposals for funding social care risks being obliterated by their opponents.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “To secure the future of the health service as it approaches its 70th birthday, the Prime Minister and Jeremy Hunt have increased NHS funding by an average 3.4 per cent per year, which will see the NHS receive £20.5 billion a year in real terms by 2023.
“We will shortly outline the Government’s plans to reform social care to ensure it is sustainable for the future, including how to fund it.”