NHS will collapse within two years unless the government invests now, says former health minister

National Health Service

Britain's treasured National Health Service could be a thing of the past within two years unless the government acts now, warns Norman Lamb.

The Liberal Democrat MP was formerly Minister of State for Community and Social Care at the Department of Health (DoH) until the Conservatives seized the majority in May's general election.

Lamb, whose previous responsibilities under the Tory-Lib Dem coalition included adult social care, mental health and disabilities, is said to have played a core role in NHS policymaking during his time at the DoH. In an exclusive interview published in the Observer, he has accused the current government of "dishonesty" and of failing to admit the scale of the NHS crisis.

Lamb's views on the state of the health service made headlines earlier this year when he spoke out regarding the NHS's Five Year Forward View (FYFV). In June, he told delegates of the Commissioning Show in London that the £22 billion efficiency savings outlined within the FYFV would be "virtually impossible" to achieve.

Speaking to the Observer, Lamb described the additional £8bn pledged by the government by 2020, as "insufficient" and expressed concern that it will be a case of too little, too late for the NHS. While he admits the promised extra cash would be welcome, he believes it will be nowhere near enough. He says: "I don’t think anyone in the NHS believes that is enough. The government talks very vaguely about an extra £8bn by 2020, but it is needed now. If it comes in 2019-20, the system will have crashed by then. I think the next two years will make or break the NHS and the care system."

A spokesperson for the Department of Health says: "We are investing the additional £8billion that the NHS itself has said it needs to implement its own plan for the future.The NHS must deliver its side of the plan by implementing cost-control initiatives the Government has brought forward, like clamping down on staffing agencies and expensive management consultants."

"Serious failures"

"If the investment is not made upfront and in the early period of this parliament, you could see serious failures in the system," Lamb warns. "The system will crash. Elderly people won’t get the care they need, and it will be people with mental ill health who suffer most, because that is where the squeeze always comes."

Nurse in Geriatry

He adds that private care companies who have been brought in to provide care under contract from local authorities are increasingly choosing not to renew contracts. He says this is because some councils, battling against budget cuts imposed by the last government of up to 40%, simply no longer have the funds with which to pay for adequate care services. Lamb says the result of this will be more elderly people presenting at strained A&E departments, further compounding the NHS crisis.

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