Hospital Dr News

“Ministers must listen to NHS leaders and put the service on a sustainable footing”

NHS England has warned the government that it can no longer guarantee the delivery of national performance standards.

The warning came at NHS England’s monthly board meeting, the first since the Budget, when the Chancellor only offered the NHS an extra £1.6bn of funding – less than half the £4bn it had demanded.

NHS England said key waiting time targets – on A&E treatment, cancer care, non-urgent hospital operations and ambulance arrival times – can no longer be met from April.

In an escalation of its public dispute with ministers over what the NHS can afford to do, it also said it would ignore recommendations to improve patient care made by the National Institute for health and Care Excellence (Nice), because it does not have the money or staff to implement them.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said: “It is deeply worrying that the body with responsibility for running the NHS is warning of the service’s inability to meet national standards of care.  Unfortunately, it is patients who are unfairly suffering the consequences 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.

“Doctors always want to deliver the best possible care for our patients, but we can’t continuously plug gaps by penny pinching and poaching from elsewhere in an overstretched service. Ministers must listen to the warnings of doctors, and to the NHS’ own leaders, and take urgent steps to put the NHS on a sustainable footing.”

The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt will now be under pressure to explain why the NHS is reducing the amount of care it offers.

Nuffield Trust Chief Economist Prof John Appleby said: “It is clear from today’s board meeting that the big question emerging from last week’s Budget is how far waiting lists for routine operations like hip and knee replacements are allowed to grow in order to preserve and improve other services like A&E and cancer care.

“With the NHS under severe financial pressure – and, as NHS England acknowledges, already spending money it doesn’t have to keep the show on the road – today’s meeting puts down a clear marker that something will have to give.”

NHS England also ratified plans to stop prescribing a range of “low-value treatments”, including fish oil, herbal remedies and homeopathic treatments, as part of a plan to save up to £190m from its £9.2bn bill for prescribed medications.

Chris Ham, Chief Executive of The King’s Fund, said: “The NHS must play its part by continuing to seek and deliver improvements in efficiency but these will not be sufficient to bridge the funding gap.

“Politicians and NHS leaders need to find common cause in engaging with the public and avoid adopting adversarial positions which will undermine public confidence in their stewardship of the NHS.”

Bookmark and Share

Post a Comment

Enter this security code

Submit Comment for Moderation