Patients’ rights are being ‘routinely breached’ because of excessive waiting times, according to a new joint analysis by the King’s Fund, the Nuffield Trust and the Health Foundation
Government spending will not be enough to meet rising demand and 2018/19 will represent a ‘crunch year’ for the NHS, with funding growth reducing to just 0.4% – one the lowest rates of growth in NHS history.
Janet Davies, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: ‘The NHS has teetered on a financial cliff edge for too long and the Budget is the Government’s opportunity to change course. The Chancellor should recognise it is unsustainable to expect a cash-strapped and understaffed service to continue providing world class care.’
The analysis found that, based on projections from the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR), the NHS would need spending to increase from £123.8 billion to £153 billion between 2017/18 and 2022/23. This constitutes an annual average increase of 4.3% – a stark difference from the 0.7% currently being projected for the period running up to 2022/23.
The authors argue that ‘In the short term, the government must use the Budget to fulfil its manifesto commitment to give the NHS the resources it needs.
‘While delivering on the manifesto pledges is essential, this will not come close to providing the funding needed to meet the pressures facing the NHS in 2018/19 or to close the projected funding gap by the end of the parliament.’
If the required level of funding is not provided, the analysis suggests that staff shortages will continue to grow, patients will need to wait longer for treatment (patients’ rights under the NHS Constitution in terms of waiting times are already regularly breached) and the quality of care provided will further deteriorate.
The Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has already said that the 7-year-long NHS public sector pay freeze will be scrapped in this month’s budget. Many are concerned, however, that this will not be accompanied by any additional funding and, instead, increasing pay will need to be offset through savings elsewhere in the NHS.
‘If Philip Hammond wants to stop tens of thousands more heading for the door, he must give the NHS the funds for a pay rise above the level of inflation – the NHS is adamant it cannot be found from existing budgets or further cuts to services,’ said Janet Davies.
The new analysis has shown that ‘productivity in the NHS is improving by 1.7 per cent a year and is outperforming the wider economy’, and some will use this to argue the NHS cannot find further productivity savings in order to finance higher pay for its workers.
Janet Davies said: ‘A meaningful cash injection from the Chancellor can make the NHS safer, not least by stopping the haemorrhaging of staff.’