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Spending on specialised services risks ‘financial stability’ of NHS

Spiralling spending on specialised services for patients with rare conditions is threatening to financially destabilise the entire NHS, MPs have warned.

A Public Accounts Committee report highlights that spending on specialised services increased at 6.3% a year, faster than the overall increase in spending on the whole NHS (3.5% a year). It is now equivalent to around 14% of the total NHS budget.

The PAC is ‘concerned that, despite the large increase in the budget for specialised services, NHS England has not kept its spending within the budget it set itself’, which could endanger the financial stability of the rest of the NHS.

The report recommends that NHS England should be ‘(a) ensuring new drugs and medical equipment are affordable; (b) ensuring services are delivered cost-effectively; and (c) better management of the level of demand for the specialised services it commissions’.

It also stated that ‘It is disappointing that, after three years, NHS England still does not have consistent information from all providers on costs, access to services and outcomes, or how efficiently services are being delivered.’

BMA chair, Dr Mark Porter, said this was ‘yet another warning about the financial crisis that is engulfing the NHS’, and urged the Government to stop ‘robbing one part of the system to pay for another’.

‘Unfortunately, despite government claims to the contrary, NHS funding has not kept up with rising patient demand and the increased cost of delivering care. Staff shortages are seen across the NHS, patients are waiting longer for appointments, and there is no real solution to the £22bn funding gap facing our health service.’

He called on new Prime Minister Theresa May to urgently ‘draw up a long term strategy for the NHS that addresses the fundamental workload and funding challenges that are overwhelming our health service’. He warned that ‘failure to invest now will result in a disaster in the future both financially and in terms of patient health and care’.

There are currently 146 specialist services – usually for patients with rare conditions or who need a specialised team to care for them at a medical centre. This includes for example renal and mental health problems and rare cancers.