NHS needs £2bn more next year to avert crisis, says charity
A fortnight ahead of the chancellor’s autumn statement to parliament, a briefing note published by the King’s Fund – a healthcare think-tank – recommends that the NHS in England be given £2 billion more next year, or face intensifying financial distress and growing deterioration in the provision of healthcare services.
The King’s Fund, a charity founded in 1897 with a long tradition of providing independent advice to parliament, published a report today which makes recommendations designed to help alleviate the anticipated financial and practical pressures the NHS will face over the next five years.
It revealed that the number of hospitals reporting deficits is unprecedented and the NHS’s performance is beginning to slip, with A&E waiting times at their highest level at this time of year for a decade. The NHS is also regularly failing to meet waiting time targets for hospital treatment, diagnostic tests and cancer treatment.
The report warns that a financial crisis within the NHS is inevitable in 2015-16, and unless chancellor George Osborne allocates the body additional funding in the autumn statement, patients will bear the cost, with cuts in staff numbers, increased waiting times, and deteriorating overall quality of care.
The NHS budget, which currently stands at £113 billion, has increased in real terms over the course of this parliament by an average of 0.7% a year. But the King’s Fund believes that increasing demand upon healthcare services, combined with the need to invest in extra staff to correct the many institutional failings identified by the 2013 Francis Report (which investigated the 2007 Stafford Hospital scandal), has pushed many parts of the NHS, particularly hospitals, into the red.
Analysis carried out by the charity found the NHS had made good progress in saving £20 billion through recent productivity improvements. However, these savings were primarily made by limiting staff salary increments and cutting management costs. These possibilities have now been largely exhausted, making opportunities for further efficiency enhancements ever more difficult to find.
The King’s Fund chief executive Chris Ham said: “There is scope to improve productivity in the NHS, but this will not be enough to respond to unprecedented pressures on budgets and meet rising demand for services. Unless more money is found a financial crisis is inevitable next year, and patients will bear the cost as waiting times rise and quality of care deteriorates.”