A new report from the NHS Confederation has given the health service in England a ‘red alert’, warning that it faces a financial crisis – and that a combination of recession and rising costs will hit the health service hardest after 2010-11. As a specialist healthcare communications and lobbying company, PRimage has enormous respect for the NHS Confederation – but we hope that the worst case scenarios mooted by the organisation are not realised! … But we do agree that some radical innovations are probably needed – and that the NHS certainly needs to become more efficient!
The NHS Confederation, which represents 90 per cent of NHS organisations, said the next two years would be “tough but manageable” but beyond 2010-11 it would be “very different and extremely challenging”. Its report — Dealing with the downturn: The greatest ever leadership challenge for the NHS? — said the service should expect a funding shortfall of £15 billion in real terms as a result of the impact of the recession and rising costs. And the report called for immediate action if the service is to continue to keep to its founding principles of providing free care to everyone at the point of need. It warned against “diluting” the quality of patient care and extending waiting lists, or making cuts to training budgets. A solution to the crisis lies in NHS leaders embracing innovation, change and improving efficiency, it said.
Judy Viitanen and the PRimage team note that the newly appointed Health Secretary Andy Burnham said NHS funding had tripled since 1997, putting it on a strong financial footing – and that he suggests that PCT’s will receive an additional 5% over the next couple of years. He agreed that a ‘leaner’ NHS was needed – but said it was premature to talk of job cuts in the health service. We’ve just listened to his interview on the Radio 4 Today programme – and felt he put up a robust defence of Labour’s record on the NHS.
We were also interested to hear the shadow health secretary, Andrew Lansley, promising that a Conservative government would increase spending on the health service. And he reiterated this during a speech this afternoon at the NHS Confederation conference – confirming the Conservatives’ commitment to increasing the NHS budget in real terms after 2011 while calling on managers to justify the extra spend. He stated his three priorities were equity, efficiency and excellence, and repeated his belief in ring-fenced public health budgets to address health inequalities.
Judy Viitanen and the PRimage team totally support the Tory view that more power needs to rest with patients. And we believe this will be helped by expanding practice based commissioning. Watch this space!