The Government needs to add new funding to the NHS budget now or it will enter a major crisis, an influential think-tank has warned.
In a new report, out today (1 May), King’s Fund researchers concluded that despite significant savings achieved under the QIPP programme – which aims to make savings of £20bn by 2015 – the NHS will soon run out of money.
And neither the Government nor the Labour Party can afford to wait until after the next general election to broach the topic of increasing the health budget, the report warned, especially with the new integrated care fund set to slice a further £1.8bn off the health budget from April 2015.
The report said: ‘There is growing evidence of financial pressures building in the NHS this year; 2015/16 has been cited as a possible financial ‘cliff edge’ as providers plan to cut emergency and other elective work as part of the opportunity cost of diverting a further £1.8 billion of NHS allocations to consolidate the £3.8 billion Better Care Fund.’
‘On its current trajectory, the health and social care system in England is rapidly heading towards a major crisis.’
But instead of just adding new money across the board, the Government should use it as a ‘transformational fund’, the King’s Fund said, ‘including to establish integrated health and social care teams in the community that would work closely with general practices to support people in their homes and over time reduce inappropriate use of hospital services’.
‘The NHS and social care need more money to make the transition to a more sustainable footing. This should be an explicit and upfront investment to enable services to invest in new models in primary and community settings and to help the hospital sector make the concomitant transition,’ the report said.
However despite the call for new money, the King’s Fund said there is still scope to improve efficiency in the NHS and these efforts should be ‘re-doubled’. This should include measures such as GP triaging in A&E departments, GPs providing more telephone consultations and GPs directly sharing patient records with other parts of the health and care service being spread throughout the NHS, the report suggested.
John Appleby, chief economist at the King’s Fund and lead author of the report, said: ‘There is still scope to improve efficiency in the health service, and efforts to release savings should be re-doubled. However, it is now a question of when, not if, the NHS runs out of money.’
‘Without significant additional funding, this will lead to rising waiting times, cuts in staff and deteriorating quality of care. It is essential that politicians from all parties are honest about the scale of the financial pressures facing the NHS and initiate a public debate about the long-term sustainability of the health and social care system before, not after, the general election.’
Commenting on the report, a Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘The difficult economic decisions this Government has taken have meant we have been able to protect the NHS budget and as a result the NHS is performing well despite rapidly rising demand.’
‘To ensure the NHS is sustainable in the long-term we need to continue to invest more in out of hospital care, make better use of technology and innovation while never compromising on the quality of care.’