Research shows NHS may get worse after reorganisation
The King’s Fund has undertaken interview-based research with 45 NHS finance chiefs which has raised doubts about the quality of care after the upcoming NHS reorganisation.
The NHS has been told to save £20 billion by 2015 through becoming more productive. To do so, it will undergo the biggest reorganisation since its creation.
The majority of NHS finance chiefs said they were currently managing to make savings without affecting the quality of services provided. However, the King’s Fund think-tank said 19 expected care to worsen over the next few years and that 2013 could mark the turning point. Only eight out of 45 believed it would improve after the reorganisation.
Incredibly, 27 of the NHS finance chiefs who took part in the online questionnaire also admitted the risk that the NHS would not meet its £20 billion target is very high.
Despite the fact the coalition government promised to protect the NHS from savage cuts, there is now a high alert in order to make sure there are no failings during this transition period. In an interview with the BBC, Sir David Nicholson said the coming months were “significant”.
Main changes to the NHS structure concern decision-making processes and budget responsibilities. Under the reorganisation, GP-led bodies, called clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), will take charge of much of the NHS budget, replacing primary care trusts (PCTs), which will be abolished. Local councils will have a more important role in addressing public health issues, such as obesity, in their local areas. A national body called Healthwatch, with local groups, is being set up to enable patients to have their say about the NHS.
Uncertainties about the outcome of the NHS structural and financial reorganisation are shared by Prof John Appleby, chief economist at the King’s Fund, who said: “There are signs that future years will be harder. The end of the public sector pay freeze next April may add to financial pressure and increase the strain on services.”
Professor Appleby, speaking of the challenges the NHS may face, added: “The difficulty will be finding ways to absorb these costs without compromising the quality of care for patients.”
Despite the King’s Fund concern and the survey’s results, the Health Minister Lord Howe stated the NHS was “on track” to achieve its savings target.
He confirmed that the NHS last year made savings of £5.8 billion whilst maintaining a good performance.