A new report from respected independent think tank The King's Fund on the state of the NHS under the Tory-led government makes grim reading.
Ward closures, job cuts and other reductions are predicted by NHS finance directors, according to The King’s Fund, a respected and independent think tank. The NHS faces difficult years ahead. Lansley’s despised reforms are being pushed through while trusts are under pressure to find £20 billion worth of savings.
The impact on the service appears to have been immediate and considerable. The first in a series of quarterly monitoring reports highlights “significant concern” among some of those responsible for making the savings.
A and E waiting times are already on the rise, surgeons have warned that patients are being denied key treatments due to cost cutting, and hospital waiting times are at their longest for three years with 15 per cent of patients waiting over 18 weeks for treatment. Although the department of health said if the figures were adjusted for “patient initiated pauses” eg patients delaying treatment to go on holiday, it would bring the amount down to just over 10 per cent.
The Guardian quote John Appleby, chief economist at the King’s Fund and lead author of the report, who said:
“It highlights significant concern amongs NHS finance directors – who are well placed to report the stresses in the system – about the prospects for the years ahead. With hospital waiting times rising, the NHS faces a considerable challenge in maintaining performance as the financial squeeze begins to bite.”
The panel for the report included 26 trust finance directors, from acute hospital, mental health and primary care trusts. According to the think tanks the report was not intended to be statistically representative, but to give “a qualitative account” of what is happening.
Most of the panel warned that they are unlikely to meet this year’s productivity targets. The strongest theme on the question of how the government could help them meet such targets was:
“…a desire for the government to be more realistic. More than half the panel made comments to this effect, with the highest number expressing a desire for a more realistic representation of the impact of tarriff changes on their income. Others asked for realism on the need for rationing snd supporting cost-effective care and of the extent to which reducing back office costs couldbe a solution.”
The report also said:
“Many panel members stressed the difficulty in trying to manage increased demand for care with reduced capacity and the need to continue to meet targets and maintain quality while keeping within reduced budgets.”
The Guardian quote shadow health secretary, John Healey, who said the report would increase concerns that the NHS was “slipping backwards again” under the Tories:
“Frontline staff and managers are massively distracted by David Cameron’s top-down reorganisation of the health service, and the signs of strain are now there for all to see. So much for Mr Cameron’s pledge to ‘protect’ the NHS – it is fast becoming his biggest broken promise.”
Worringly closures of wards or other services were mentioned 12 times as a way of meeting targets. One panel member even commented:
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“A saving is not a saving until the activity has reduced and the beds or theatres have closed and the jobs taken out; only then do commissioners and providers save money.”