Delivering extra investment for new buildings and infrastructure, social care and addressing major gaps in NHS staffing, should be at the top of the new government’s priority list, the NHS Confederation has said in a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The letter states that the question of NHS finance is not yet settled, despite the £20.5 billion funding settlement that kicked in from April this year. According to the NHS Confederation, the settlement excluded some vital areas of expenditure that will in part determine whether the NHS can achieve the ambitions set out in the Long Term Plan, such as capital spending, training and education budgets, public health and social care.
‘The Prime Minister’s to-do list is full with NHS issues that need solving now: social care is a national disgrace, NHS pension inflexibilities are lengthening waiting times and a lack of capital funding is hampering hospitals trying to improve services for patients,’ said Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation.
‘On top of this, we have 100,000 staff vacancies which are damaging patient care. The Prime Minister has been in post a matter of days but we welcome his early personal commitment to addressing these issues. He needs to act with speed and conviction and we will work with him and his government to help find the right solutions.’
In addition to the staffing challenge, there is a mounting pensions crisis that has resulted in many senior NHS staff receiving large tax bills and deciding not to take up extra shifts. This is contributing to lengthening waiting times for patients – a situation that will only become worse as we head toward winter.Additionally capital funding has been raided in recent years, leaving a damaging maintenance backlog and a lack of investment in new buildings and equipment such as scanners that are urgently required.
‘Problems for patients will intensify without government reform of the annual allowance taper and the NHS pension scheme,’ said Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers. ‘The next spending review must restore investment in continuing professional development and training and incentivise recruitment to undergraduate clinical programmes. Better value could be achieved by allowing use of the Apprenticeship Levy fundingto help deliver clinical degree apprenticeships and there must be a long term migration policy which enables recruitment of vital social care and health staff.’