Ahead of Chancellor George Osborne’s Autumn Statement next week, the King’s Fund has called for an additional £2 billion in funding for the NHS “to prevent a financial crisis in 2015/16”.
The health think-tank notes that the NHS is facing “huge pressures as a result of an ongoing funding squeeze, rising demand for services and the need to safeguard quality of care following the Francis report”. Halfway through 2014, provider trusts are in deficit by £630 million, indicating that “financial distress has now become endemic across the system – it is touch and go whether the Department of Health will be able to balance its books this year”.
The King’s Fund claims that at the same time, “NHS performance is beginning to slip, with A&E waiting times at their highest level at this time of year for a decade and target waits for hospital treatment, diagnostic tests and cancer treatment being breached on a regular basis”. It adds that unless the £2 billion is found in the Autumn Statement, “patients will bear the cost as staff numbers are cut, waiting times rise and quality of care deteriorates”.
It adds that a “transformation fund” should also be established early in the next parliament to help meet the costs of developing “new community-based services and double-running during the transition between old and new models of care”.
The Fund concludes by noting that “while we welcome the recent commitments from all the main parties to increase NHS funding during the next parliament, it is clear that none of them have yet addressed the scale of the financial challenge facing the NHS”.