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NHS will be “hard-hit” by spending cuts

Squeeze on social care will cause vulnerable to turn to GPs and A&E say campaigners

Jo Carlowe

Monday, 18 October 2010

Despite protection of its budget the health service will still be hard hit by spending cuts.This is the message from the NHS Confederation, which today warned that cuts to local government budgets could lead to reductions in social care provision and ‘cause problems’ for the NHS.

NHS Confederation acting chief executive, Nigel Edwards, said with councils facing 25% cuts, social care could be slashed leaving vulnerable people forced to turn to the health service for support.

“Before long we could see a majority of councils only supplying services to those with the most critical of needs.

At a superficial level, this may ease pressure on the social care budget. But the needs of these vulnerable people and their families will not simply disappear - if needs are not met by social care, people will turn to the NHS.

Some will present as emergencies in A&E departments and GP surgeries, others will find themselves trapped in hospital unable to get home, blocking the bed from someone else who badly needs it.  Everybody loses: the users of services, those who care for them, the taxpayer and the NHS. It’s a classic false economy.”

Mr Edwards said it was time for political leaders to be ‘frank and realistic’ about the impact on the public.

“The public need to go into this with their eyes wide open.The NHS may have some limited protection to its budget but it still faces a potent cocktail of financial pressures.

We need to deal with funding increases which while protected will not be adequate to deal with growing demand, one of the biggest reorganisations in the NHS’s history and the pre-existing need to find between £15-20 billion of savings.”

Mr Edwards said it would take ‘every reserve of skill and expertise’ to minimise the impact on availability and quality of patient care.

And he pointed out that while cutting management costs was part of the answer – some 45% of management costs were already on course to be cut and yet the saving was just £0.85 billion of the £20 billion required.

“So I am afraid that there are no pain-free choices if we are going to make this happen,” he added.

 

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