‘Radical change’ needed for NHS

Published: Tuesday 3rd February 2015 by The News Editor

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Measures to ease pressure on hard-pressed hospital accident and emergency departments are not working, MPs have warned, amid renewed concerns over the sustainability of NHS finances.

The Commons Public Accounts Committee said that radical change was needed to the way health care is provided in England – with more use of community and primary care services to reduce the strain on acute hospitals – if it was to be affordable in the long-term.

However, it said that the cash available for the upfront investment necessary to deliver the planned reforms was being eroded as increasing numbers of NHS bodies fell into deficit.

At the same time the committee warned that the current funding arrangements were acting as a “financial disincentive” for acute hospitals to shift more of the burden to community care.

“The different payment mechanisms and financial incentives for local health bodies are not aligned to encourage the sort of integration required to implement the proposed new models of care,” the committee said.

“The current system of paying for emergency admissions hinders, rather than helps, secure the financial sustainability of NHS bodies.”

The committee said that the number of NHS trusts and foundation trusts in deficit had more than doubled – from 10% in 2012-13 to 26% in 2013-14.

The watchdog, Monitor, found that 80% of the foundation trusts involved in the provision of acute hospital services were reporting a deficit by the second quarter of 2014-15.

The committee said the NHS could struggle to achieve the efficiency savings it needed – which typically came in at 1% to 2% a year against a target of 4% – without a change of approach.

It also pointed to the high cost to the NHS of hiring temporary agency staff – which rose from £2.1 billion in 2012-13 to £2.6 billion in 2013-14 – with consultants said to be charging typically £1,760-a-day.

The committee chair, Margaret Hodge said: “From all our work across all of government, the fragility of the NHS finances causes me greatest concern.

“It is clear that the old ways will no longer work – radical change is required to make the NHS financially sustainable.”

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said: ” This report reveals that under David Cameron, alongside the A&E crisis, the NHS is now struggling with a growing financial crisis.

“Many trusts are in trouble on all fronts and trapped in a downward spiral, without enough staff and lacking the funds they need to stop the slide.

“This is a mess of the Government’s making and spells disaster for the NHS unless there is an urgent change of course.”

He said David Cameron had inherited a financially sound health service and the report ” lays bare the true scale of his mismanagement”.

“Far from dealing with the deficit, he has created one in the NHS with his unnecessary reorganisation. It took focus off finances, wasted £3 billion in the process and dragged the NHS down. That is why the Tory MP and former health secretary Stephen Dorrell says that it was Cameron’s single biggest mistake.

“The committee is right to call for a change of course and the remodelling of care, starting in the home and the community.

“This is at the heart of Labour’s 10-year plan for the NHS, backed by an extra £2.5 billion each year over and above Tory plans. Our programme of reform and investment will break this cycle of decline in the NHS and put the NHS back on a sustainable path.”

A Department of Heath spokesperson said: “We know the NHS is busier than ever, which is why we’re increasing the budget by an extra £2 billion next year to back the NHS’s long term plan to move more care from hospital to home. The majority of Trusts are forecasting a surplus, but all NHS organisations know that financial discipline must be as important as safe care and good performance.”

Published: Tuesday 3rd February 2015 by The News Editor

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