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Long-term plan at risk without sufficient funding

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Demand for hospital services has increased by 3% Demand for hospital services has increased by 3%

Urgent government action on wider health funding is required to deliver the NHS Long-term Plan, analysis by the Health Foundation and the NHS Confederation has found.

NHS England’s budget is set to increase by £20.6bn in real with plans to allocate the additional funding towards necessary improvements in mental health, primary and community services.

However, according to the analysis, to meet growing patient demand, hospital activity will need to rise by at least 2.7% a year by 2023/24. The report estimates that if NHS earnings are to keep pace with wage growth for other professions, the extra money will only enable hospital activity to grow by 2.3% over this period. Managing demand to this extent would require a major change to recent trends, as demand for hospital services has increased by 3% a year since 2010/11.

‘The vision set out by NHS leaders in the long-term plan is the right one, and the extra funding announced by Theresa May last summer is welcome. But this is not job done,’ said Dr Jennifer Dixon, Chief Executive at the Health Foundation.

‘Policymakers need to face the fact that there is urgent unfinished business if the NHS is to deliver its vision to improve patient care. There are mounting workforce shortages, the social care system is starved of funding, capital investment is going backwards, and public health funds cut. This all piles demand on the NHS and risks swallowing up the extra money and leaving far less to modernise care, reduce waiting times, and prevent illness in the first place. The NHS is being seriously hampered in efforts to move forward. How can any industry significantly boost productivity without investing in staff training, technology and kit?’

The analysis confirms that to maintain current levels of quality and access to services over the next five years, the total health care budget would need to increase by 3.4%, meaning that funding for workforce, capital and public health would increase at the same rate as funding for front-line services. But to deliver the high quality and better-value for money services set out in the NHS Long Term Plan, there is a strong case for a rebalancing of day-to-day spending and longer-term investment, which would mean increasing the total health budget by 4.1% a year.

‘These two organisations are clearly warning that the staffing crisis is still “mounting” and “crippling” the NHS in England. Warnings of this kind and from people of their calibre shouldn’t roll off the backs of Ministers,’ RCN chief executive and general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair.

‘There’s no doubt that without substantial additional investment, it will continue. With last week’s official figures showing another year-on-year rise in the number of unfilled nurse jobs, it’s time for a properly-resourced staffing plan based on clear evidence from the front line. To make sure government and NHS management properly grip this issue, roles and responsibilities for workforce supply and planning must be explicitly spelt out in legislation.’

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