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Stop bickering over money and focus on patients, MPs tell NHS leaders

MPs have asked NHS England and the Government to stop arguing over money and focus on what is best for patients.

A report from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said that ‘the Department of Health, NHS England and Number 10 must work together in the best interests of patients’, rather than ‘bickering in public’, as this ‘does little to inspire confidence that patients are at the heart of everyone’s priorities’.

The statement comes as chief executive Simon Stevens told the PAC last month that NHS England did not get the funding it asked for from the Government – despite the Government’s repeated claims the NHS is getting more than it asked for.

The PAC’s analysis also suggested that local leaders, ordered to come up with 44 Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) for the NHS in England, have been given an impossible task in light of funding pressures.

The report said: ‘As this report underlines, the NHS is facing huge challenges. This requires a united effort to resolve these for the long term.’

Going on to suggest that the DH ‘has resorted to raiding the separate capital budget earmarked for long-term investment and is using this to fund day-to-day spending’, the report said that ‘NHS England and NHS Improvement have much more to do before the public can feel confident that [STPs] are achievable’.

It concluded: ‘We recognise the unprecedented challenge of achieving financial sustainability when patient demand is rising, budgets are tight and pressures in social care are impacting on the NHS.

‘But the Department, NHS England and NHS Improvement are asking local bodies to solve multiple problems and deliver a range of priorities, without a proper understanding of what they can realistically achieve. Transformation under such pressure is hard to achieve.’

PAC chair Meg Hillier called the contradicting statements about NHS funding from the Prime Minister and head of NHS England ‘an insult to taxpayers who deserve an honest, grown-up conversation about future finance and service provision’. 

She said: ‘Government’s rigid adherence to a set of stock lines about funding, in the face of mounting evidence its plan isn’t up to the job, is not it.’

BMA chair Dr Mark Porter said: ‘The simple fact is that the NHS is at breaking point because politicians have chosen to underfund our health and social care system and ignore the warnings of healthcare professionals.’