This site is intended for health professionals only

Two-thirds of areas report decline in NHS quality

Nearly two thirds of NHS trust finance directors and more than half of CCG finance leads have seen the quality of care deteriorate in their area over the past year, according to a new report from The King’s Fund.

The report found that 65% of trust finance directors and more than half (54%) of CCG finance leads feel that patient care has worsened in the past year.

The think-tank said that its findings on the quality of care, based on a survey of 241 trust finance directors and 149 CCG finance leads, were ‘the most worrying’ since it began tracking this question in 2012.

It said: ‘The report underlines the increasing strain the NHS us under as it struggles to manage increasing pressure on services within constrained resources.’

Only 2% of trust finance directors and 12% of CCG finance leads said that patient care had improved in the past 12 months, according to the King’s Fund’s Quarterly Monitoring report.

Key areas affected include:

  • A&E, with more than 1.85 million (8%) of patients spending longer than 4 hours in A&E across the year, the worst performance since 2003/4;
  • Hospital waiting times, with the number of patients waiting for hospital treatment estimated to have risen to 3.7 million, an increase of 17% year on year;
  • Hospital delays, with more than 5,700 patients delayed at the end of March 2015, an increase of 15%.

In addition to observing deteriorating care, close to a quarter of all CCGs expect to overspend their budgets this year. This is an indication, according to the think-tank, that financial pressures are being felt not only by providers but by commissioners as well.

More than half CCGs (61%) are concerned about meeting cost improvement targets in 2016/17 despite a £1.8 billion funding boost designed to support NHS providers in reducing deficits and improving services

John Appleby, chief economist at The King’s Fund, said: ‘2015/16 was a very difficult year for the NHS, reflected in huge deficits and worsening performance.

’[Next year will be] a watershed year for the NHS in which it has been tasked with eradicating deficits and improving performance. Despite significant additional funding and a huge effort to contain deficits, it is clear that this is going to be a Herculean challenge.’

GPC lead Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘It should be no surprise to anyone that NHS performance is going backwards not forwards when the system is under massive and growing financial pressure at the same time as demand continues to rise.

’The Government must listen and not only commit to invest to funding the NHS to levels comparable with other EU countries, but also stop promoting populist policies such as seven-day working that have little if any clinical evidence to support their implementation.’

In February, NHS trusts forecast an end-of-year deficit of around £2.3bn