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  1. ITV Report

Brexit bus turned into a double-decker with £600m a week NHS boost

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the NHS. Photo: PA

Late Friday afternoon and it was clear that last minute talks between the Treasury, Jeremy Hunt and the PM about today’s announcement were still ongoing.

A senior health source was saying that things still need to be sorted out. Given that the PM has long been expected to make a big announcement on the NHS, timing to celebrate the 70th anniversary of its creation, the discussions were clearly running up to the wire.

Which might explain the lack of detail. The PM talks about paying an extra £20billion a year into the NHS by 2023, funded by a Brexit "dividend" - that's £600million a week which turns the famous Brexit bus into a double-decker, but crucially she adds that a “little bit” more that will have to come from taxpayers.

How big will any Brexit dividend be?

The prime minister has said it will be funded by a Brexit 'dividend' and taxes. Credit: PA

The most the number crunchers at the Institute for Fiscal Studies can find is around £5billion further down the road - in around 2023 once we are completely out of the EU.

That leaves a huge chunk which will have to come from us. My understanding on Friday afternoon was that could come from paying off the deficit more slowly, i.e. more borrowing, or freezing tax thresholds, i.e. effective tax rises.

Either way, the 3.7% increase in the NHS budget is widely accepted to be the bare minimum.

Starved capital budgets will need to be topped up straight away with any extra cash, so then there’s a debate about how much of this funding would be spent immediately on the front line. Could it be spent on more doctors and nurses? Where would they come from?

Interesting to note that the cap on foreign doctors was lifted last week ahead of this announcement, perhaps reflecting the reality of a shortage of doctors to hire with any extra money.

So today the PM has made a big announcement, but raised some big questions. It’s a row she will want to have though, because today most people will hear that the NHS is getting extra money.

That promise on the side of the bus is being more than met, in fact it’s more than £350million a week for the NHS. The row over how it will actually be paid for will not grab the headlines in the same way and besides it will be left to Chancellor Philip Hammond to explain the pain that will have to come with any gain for the health service.

Boris Johnson, the man metaphorically behind the wheel of the Brexit bus, must be delighted the PM has arrived at this destination. At last for the Brexit enthusiasts there is a positive headline.