NHS boss warns government a seven-day NHS ‘impossible’ to achieve without investment
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s plans for a seven-day NHS have hit a new obstacle as a senior health official warns that his vision to extend NHS services would be “impossible” to achieve with existing staff and funding, warning that without extra investment, “stark choices” about cutting services, introducing charges and axing staff may lie ahead.
Describing the ongoing shortage of frontline medical staff as “unprecedented”, experts warn the existing staffing situation, coupled with austerity measures impacting on the social care system, has contributed to the current failings as the NHS faces its worst crisis in decades.
“Years of underfunding”
Chris Hopson, Chief Executive of NHS Providers wrote in The Observer newspaper: “Years of underfunding means the NHS is increasingly failing to do the job it wants to do, and the public needs it to do, through no fault of its own.”
He says that “despite the best efforts of hard-working staff”, some key performance indicators relating to A&E were now the worst they had ever been and that now is the time for political leaders and NHS chiefs to acknowledge to the public that the NHS can no longer deliver what it is being asked to on current funding.
NHS England published its monthly performance data for the month of July late last week, with standards for A&E waiting times, ambulance response times and waiting lists for elective operations, missed overall. However, figures reveal that demand for services continues to rise, with greater volumes of patients presenting for both urgent and emergency care.
Describing the gap between available funds and service delivery as a “chasm”, Mr Hopson says, in the absence of additional investment from government, “unpalatable” choices will need to be made about restricting access to care, relaxing performance targets, shutting down services, introducing charges for care and axing staff.
He says: “We face a stark choice: invest the resources required to keep up with demand or watch the NHS slowly deteriorate.
“It is impossible to provide the right quality of service and meet performance targets on the funding available. Something has to give.”
Mr Hopson added that the NHS officially ended the last financial year £2.45billion in the red - the largest deficit in its history, but claims the true figure is likely to be closer to £3.5billion.
He says that dropping performance was simultaneously being matched by “unprecedented staff shortages, including nurses, key specialists, GPs and emergency doctors”. He adds: “These have led to closures of A&E departments and other services, unsustainable pressure on GPs and, in 2015-16, an unaffordable extra £3.6bn agency staff bill”.
A Commons Health Select Committee will decide later this month whether to mount an inquiry into the state of the NHS in England.
A government spokesman told the BBC that it has already agreed to provide almost £4billion this year towards improving standards of care.
This content is subject to our Disclaimer.