The content of this website is intended for healthcare professionals only

NHS finances in dire straits warn health leaders

NHS leaders say access to care will worsen

Jo Carlowe

Wednesday, 06 July 2011

Many NHS leaders say the financial situation facing their organisation is ‘the worst ever’ and say that patients will suffer.

These are the findings of a major survey of the leaders of NHS organisations published today by the NHS Confederation.

The survey results, which cover 287 chairs and chief executives from some 243 organisations including acute trusts, primary care trusts, ambulance trusts, mental health trusts and independent sector NHS providers, paint a bleak picture for the future.

The survey shows, for the first time, the view from boardrooms around the country as the NHS sets out to save some £20billion over four years to keep pace with rising demand.

Most of those surveyed believe that access to care will decline and that cuts in local authority budgets will lead to more people needing healthcare services.

Some 42% said the financial situation facing their organisation was "the worst they had ever experienced", while an additional 47% said it was "very serious".

More than two thirds thought the financial pressure would increase over the next three years with 39% saying it would "increase significantly".

And although 51% felt the quality of services they delivered or commissioned would improve over the next three years, a significant minority - one in five (20%) - felt their quality would decrease over the next 12 months, while almost a third thought it would over the next three years.

Looking at aspects of quality in the next 12 months, a third (32%) thought that the experience of patients would suffer. Of greatest concern was patient access covering the availability of care and waiting times. In all, 53% felt this would worsen.

Moreover, three quarters of respondents thought cuts in local authority spending would impact on the NHS. The vast majority predicted an increase in demand for community (88%), mental health (72%), and primary care services (71%). They also predicted increases in delayed discharges from hospital (86%), acute admissions to hospital (63%), emergency readmissions to hospital (63%) and A&E attendances (55%).

Shadow Health Secretary John Healey has described the results as further evidence of ‘widespread anxiety in the health service’ but Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has said waiting times will continue to remain low and stable.

Registered in England and Wales. Reg No. 2530185. c/o Wilmington plc, 5th Floor, 10 Whitechapel High Street, London E1 8QS. Reg No. 30158470