The NHS could be facing the most testing period in its history if reduction in spending per person is not reconsidered, the Health Foundation said, as more staff continue to leave the service due to lack of pay.
In a new briefing, the independent charity also outlines how the new government urgently needs to bridge an alarming funding gap in social care, which has resulted in at least 400,000 fewer people in England receiving care.
Concerns over care provision have intensified due to worries over staffing as NHS Providers, representing almost all 240 trusts, called on politicians to address growing concerns over the NHS workforce. Pay restraint, the impact of Brexit and the absence of a robust long-term NHS workforce strategy are making an impact.
NHS Providers released a policy paper telling the government trust leaders are now reporting that finding and keeping the right number of people with the right skills to deliver high-quality care has become their biggest challenge.
According to NHS Providers, the growing workforce problems mean that NHS services are having to close unnecessarily, the timeliness and quality of care patients receive is being adversely affected and the burden on NHS staff is becoming unsupportable.
With a general election on 8 June, NHS Providers called on the party in government after the vote to work with NHS national bodies to fund a long-term approach to workforce planning and to consider how to end pay restraint. The 1% cap on pay rises is expected to continue each year until 2020, a decision chief executive Chris Hopson asked Prime Minister Theresa May to reverse.
He said: ‘Years of pay restraint and stressful working conditions are taking their toll.
‘Significant numbers of trusts say lower paid staff are leaving to stack shelves in supermarkets rather than carry on working in the NHS.
‘We are getting consistent reports of retention problems because of working pressures in the health service causing stress and burnout. All the evidence shows that staff who are happy and motivated provide better care.
‘NHS Trusts want to see strategic solutions in place dealing with pay, the supply and demand of staff, retention and training. But they tell us they see no sustainable long term plans in place.’
NHS Providers focused how on insufficient numbers of mental health nurses, A&E consultants, paramedics and community nurses prevent progress and improvement of care within the NHS.
The impact of staffing and funding problems was presented in the Health Foundation’s report NHS and social care funding: three unavoidable challenges. It called on the next government to make sure it confronts three fundamental problems in the NHS it had identified.
According to their report, social care needs immediate attention from an incoming government with 400,000 fewer people receiving publicly funded care in 2012/12 than in 2009/10 due to falls in funding.
They called on the future government to increase NHS funding in England over the next two years.
Spending is projected to be lower in the next two years than in any other 10-year period since the founding of the NHS in 1948. This year, the NHS trusts posted a combined deficit of £2.5 billion.
The foundation said the pace of funding growth in the NHS needs to accelerate after 2020 to keep up with an increasing, ageing population and rising chronic disease levels, as well as to fund new technological and medical advances and innovations.
Director of research and economics Anita Charlesworth said: ‘Years of austerity have left the NHS and social care sector in an increasingly perilous financial state. Whatever the outcome of the general election, there are big challenges ahead for the health and care system. If we are to deliver the quality service people expect, funding will need to rise – not just in the short term, but year on year.
‘The NHS model is not broken; all the evidence is that a tax funded system has substantial advantages in terms of efficiency and fairness.
‘But however efficient it is, the health service still has to be resourced properly. If we want the NHS to keep up with medical advances and meet the changing needs of an ageing population, spending will need to rise.’