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Osborne pledges $9 billion more to U.K. health service next year

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(Bloomberg) — Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne will pledge an extra 6 billion-pound ($9 billion) investment in Britain’s state-run National Health Service in the next fiscal year, as the government seeks to show it’s prioritizing health, days after junior doctors  — the U.K. equivalent of medical residents and medical interns — voted overwhelmingly for a strike.

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The governing Conservative Party promised in its manifesto for May’s election that health spending would rise by 10 billion pounds a year in real terms by 2020, allowing the NHS to implement a five-year plan for the future of the service. The chancellor will reiterate that pledge when he delivers his Spending Review and the Autumn Statement to Parliament on Wednesday, the Treasury said in an e-mail, setting the extra funding at 6 billion pounds in the first year of the Spending Review, 2016-2017.

“You can only have a strong NHS if you have a strong economy and it’s only because we have taken the difficult decisions needed to cut the deficit and are delivering economic security that we are able to commit an additional 10 billion pounds a year by 2020 to the NHS,” Osborne will say, according to prepared remarks released by his office. “This means I am providing the health department with a half-a-trillion-pound settlement, the biggest ever commitment to the NHS since its creation” in 1948.

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The chancellor may be keen to stress the government’s willingness to invest in the NHS as relations with those working in the service remain tense. Next week, junior doctors are planning to strike over Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s plans to impose a new contract that will change the way they’re paid, reducing compensation for weekend working as the government seeks to make more health care services available on Saturdays and Sunday.

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The British Medical Association says the plans will remove safeguards on doctors’ hours, endangering patients’ lives.

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The budget boost will allow the health service to offer 800,000 more operations and treatments, 2 million more diagnostic tests, 5.5 million more outpatient appointments and to spend 2 billion pounds more on new drugs, according to the Treasury.