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NHS funding falls short of 4% needed for improvements

New funding for healthcare already ‘swallowed up’

Jo Carlowe

Monday, 09 July 2018

Helping the NHS recover post-austerity risks swallowing up most of the new funding, NHS providers has warned today.

In its report The NHS funding settlement: recovering lost ground, the organisation says filling the gaps that have opened up in the health service after almost a decade of austerity will account for “much if not most” of the new money recently announced by the prime minister.

The report offers an assessment of the likely costs of restoring performance in the hospital, mental health, community and ambulance sectors, so the health service can sustainably deliver the standards of care outlined in the NHS constitution.

Key pressure points identified include:

  • Recovering the 18-week target for routine operations would cost £950 million a year for three years
  • Funding more beds to meet A&E targets — the equivalent of an estimated additional 7,825 hospital beds needed to cope safely with these pressures — would cost almost £900 million.
  • Restoring the mental health and community nursing workforce to 2010 levels, before the funding squeeze began, would cost nearly £350m a year for the next three years.
  • Tackling high and significant backlog maintenance on the NHS estate would cost at least £1.2 billion a year for three years.
Commenting, Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, said: “The prime minister’s NHS funding commitment, taking average annual increases over the next five years to 3.4%, is welcome, as is the decision to invest before the comprehensive spending review. But set against experts’ estimates that 3.3% would be required just for the NHS just to stand still, it poses big questions about future priorities which will have to be addressed in the NHS’ 10-year plan.

“This report highlights the scale of the challenges the NHS faces in recovering the lost ground that has built up over the longest and deepest financial squeeze in NHS history.

“It is striking how these pressures are being felt right across the system, in hospitals, mental health, community and ambulance services. We would be fooling ourselves to think there are any simple short cuts to recovery.”

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the healthcare sector, said, “One of the greatest dangers we now face is unrealistic expectations. While everyone is rushing about trying to spend new money, the reality is that we have some really tough decisions ahead. We cannot do it all, and we need to admit that.

“The government’s extra funding and promise of longer term stability is really welcome, but falls short of the 4% a year independent experts say we need to deliver even modest improvements. And thus far, there is nothing for social care, nothing for public health, nothing extra for training the professionals who will deliver the care, and no news on the capital that is so badly needed. What is more, just pumping in more resources will not work. We need transformation money aimed at boosting care in the community that will prevent unnecessary hospital admissions – only that way have we got any hope of making the system sustainable. We need to move upstream, stop people falling in the river instead of fishing them out, often when it is too late.”

Commenting to OnMedica, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson, said: “We are increasing funding for the NHS by an average 3.4% per year - meaning that by 2023/24 it will receive £20.5 billion a year more than it currently does - and it is now up to the NHS to develop a 10-year plan to propose how to best invest this new funding by working with government and consulting with patients as well as the public.”

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