Article by Daniel Mason of the Health & Social Care Reform regarding a King’s Fund report
The NHS needs another £2bn of funding in the next year if it is to avoid financial crisis, the King’s Fund health thinktank has warned.
Its chief executive, Chris Ham, said that while there was still scope for efficiency savings by improving productivity, that would not be enough to deal with “unprecedented pressures on budgets and meet rising demand for services”.
None of the main political parties have addressed the “scale or urgency of the financial challenge facing the NHS” despite recent pledges of extra cash, he added.
In a briefing published ahead of George Osborne’s autumn statement on 3 December, the King’s Fund said patients would bear the costs if the money is not found – “as staff numbers are cut, waiting times rise and quality of care deteriorates”.
The report continued: “Figures published in the last few days show that, halfway through the year, provider trusts are in deficit by £630m, significantly worse than at the end of the first quarter.
“At the same time, NHS performance is beginning to slip, with A&E waiting times at their highest levels at this time of year for a decade and target waits for hospital treatment, diagnostic tests and cancer treatment being breached on a regular basis.”
It would be “touch and go” whether the Department of Health would be able to balance its books this year, the thinktank suggested.
With a real terms budget increase of just 0.2% planned for next year, and with significant funding being deployed through the Better Care Fund to integrate health and social care services, a financial crisis is “inevitable” without an extra cash injection, it said.
Ham said: “With deficit reduction still a high priority, finding an additional £2bn in the autumn statement is a big ask. However, unless more money is found, a financial crisis next year and patients will bear the cost as waiting times rise and quality of care deteriorates.”
According to the report, a new transformation fund should be established next year to pay for community-based services and to help meet the costs of the transition from old to new models of care.
“Looking further ahead, even under the most optimistic scenario outlined in the recent NHS five-year forward view, an additional £8bn a year in funding will be needed by 2020, more than any of the political parties have so far pledged to find,” it said.
The deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, has previously suggested that he expected extra money for the NHS to be included in the chancellor’s autumn statement next week.
Labour’s shadow health secretary, Andy Burnham, said: “NHS patients are already seeing waiting times and cancer care heading downhill on this government’s watch – people will fear that much worse will be in store next year.
“Only Labour will rescue the NHS with a £2.5bn a year Time to Care fund for new staff, including 20,000 more nurses – investment the Tories and the Lib Dems will not match.
“In next week’s autumn statement, George Osborne should also commit to using £1bn from banking fines to help ease the pressure on the NHS. David Cameron chose to put NHS finances on this knife-edge when he wasted £3bn on a damaging reorganisation.”
Our health service is in freefall.