Hospital Dr News

Chair of King’s resigns and calls for a fundamental rethink of NHS funding

The high profile chair of King’s College Hospital has stepped down criticising the government’s lack of support for acute trusts.

Bob Kerslake, a former civil servant mandarin, called for a fundamental rethink of how the NHS is funded and organised.

Commentators suggested it was more evidence that financial constraints are slowing down the NHS’s capacity to reform how care is delivered.

Kerslake said King’s College Hospital started suffering financial problems since it took responsibility for another hospital the Princess Royal University hospital in Bromley, in 2013.

Despite the trust implementing significant change and making savings of £80m in each of the last two years, the regulators are unhappy with its financial performance.

Kerslake said: “After two years of delivering or getting close to the deficit target agreed with our regulator NHS Improvement, King’s has moved significantly away from its planned figure for this year.

“We’re far from alone – almost every hospital in London is struggling – but the scale of the deficit and the change means that we will be put into financial special measures. The secretary of state and the regulator normally extract a price for this at the top and King’s will be no different. We could fight back, but this puts King’s future at even greater risk.

“The right thing for me to do therefore is to step down and to do so publicly.”

Kerslake warned that until the government rethinks NHS funding levels “we are simply kicking the can down the road”.

Commenting on the resignation, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said: “This is yet another warning about the worrying lack of funding in the health service. Lord Kerslake knows the ins and outs of Whitehall and his comments should act as a wakeup call for policy makers.

“It is patients who will continue to bear the brunt of a clearly underfunded service. Waiting time targets for hospital care haven’t been met for years and patients face growing delays to see their GP as general practice struggles to cope with demand.

“Ministers should take heed and listen to the warnings of doctors, and to the NHS’ own leaders, and take urgent steps to put the NHS on a sustainable footing.”

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, added: “What we, our members and others have been saying is that this is not just the normal pitch for more money from a bunch of vested interests – everyone accepts that the government has enormously difficult decisions to make at a time of great uncertainty and great distraction.

“But what is unarguable is that demand is growing beyond our capacity to meet it – and ironically the current constraints are slowing down our capacity to reform the way care is delivered.

“As a society we have to decide whether or not we are prepared to take a hard look at what will be needed, embrace reform and provide the resources needed to deliver it.”

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