NHS 'on high alert during change'

Surgical operation Ministers maintain the NHS is performing well despite the pressures

The NHS in England is on "high alert" to make sure there are no failings as it gears up for the biggest change in its history, the head of the NHS says.

In an interview with the BBC, Sir David Nicholson said the coming months were "significant".

The health service is currently busy getting ready for the government's reforms to go live in April.

Sir David said he was determined to make sure care did not suffer during the changes and bedding-in process.

Under the reforms, GP-led bodies, called clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), will take charge of much of the NHS budget, replacing primary care trusts (PCTs) which will be scrapped.

Sir David said: "I would say the NHS is on high alert in relation to the potential for quality problems as we go through the transition."

Productivity drive

Sir David also warned the health service not to take its eye off the bigger picture.

The NHS is at the start of a savings drive - it has been told to save £20bn by 2015 through becoming more productive.

Sir David said the NHS had "started well" but more change was needed.

Start Quote

There are signs that future years will be harder”

End Quote John Appleby King's Fund

His comments come as fresh fears have been raised that cuts will have to be made to the front-line of the NHS, if it is to cope.

The government promised to protect the health service, but research by the King's Fund, based on interviews with 45 NHS finance chiefs, raises doubts.

The majority said they were currently managing to make savings without harming care.

But the think-tank said 19 expected care to get worse over the next few years, and that 2013 could mark the turning point, with only eight believing it would get better.

Some 27 of the managers who took part in the online questionnaire also said there was now a high, or very high, risk that NHS would not meet its £20bn target.

Increased demand

Meanwhile, a BBC survey of 1,005 people suggested 60% believed services would have to be cut.

The poll, carried out by ComRes, asked members of the public in England a series of questions about the NHS.

Some 61% agreed that they expected the NHS would have to stop providing some treatments and services in the future due to rising costs and increasing demands.

Nearly three-quarters also said they did not trust the government with the health service.

Prof John Appleby, chief economist at the King's Fund, said: "There are signs that future years will be harder.

"The end of the public sector pay freeze next April may add to financial pressure and increase the strain on services.

"The difficulty will be finding ways to absorb these costs without compromising the quality of care for patients."

But health minister Lord Howe maintained the NHS was "on track" to achieve its savings target.

He said £5.8bn was saved last year, while performance remained good.

"Waiting times have been kept low, infections have been reduced, there are more doctors, more diagnostic tests and more planned operations," he added.


More on This Story

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    @67 blackster. How on earth do you know they are not paying taxes? everyone pays multiple forms of tax what a stupid comment. also the budget comes from more than income.

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    Is this not Budget season for 2013 - I hear noise of CFOs trying to protect their spending power/budget levels.

    I think we should focus on getting more out of the NHS for less, that's what happens in the commercial world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    Great another "think tank" guessing the, I work in the NHS and its common for finance depts. to not get best deals at all or listen to staff on cost saving ideas, eg. I'm forced to pay £140 for items I can get for £25 I want to save the dept money!!! plus surveying managers haha they will say that as they are saving their own jobs, in scare mongering,

  • Comment number 92.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    #36 gorlestongirl1
    Dont be silly, you are suggesting the obvious that just about everyone supports except the elected few. The elected few are going to increase international aid at the expense of sufficient funding for the NHS and Defence of the Realm

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    Of course it will get worse. That's the plan. Then more hospitals will need to be "rescued" by private companies and more "reforms" will be introduced. This government doesn't believe in the NHS and see the health service only as a fantastic business opportunity for their supporters. The NHS has to be destroyed so private businesses can benefit. All the rest is just propaganda.

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    It wil get worse because of privatisation. The obvious solution of stopping it and charging PFI companies with fraud and making them give back what they have stolen won't be done. The people who did this are rich and have powerful friends. But that is what should be done and it's the only way the NHS will get better.

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    Let's face it, the whole of the NHS needs to be re-modeled.

    It's getting on a little bit now, and has been tinkered with / messed about with enough, so that it struggles now to fulfill its primary function.

    It is time to start again.

    I love the NHS, and would defend it to anyone, but it needs rebuilding, not patching up every four years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    This is no surprise to anyone who understands PFI - we have always known that the new hospitals would one-day bankrupt the NHS due to the huge effective rates of interest (officially called "service charges") charged. The ONLY purpose of PFI was to fiddle the PSBR figures, just like Greece - who paid Goldman Sachs to hide its debt for a while but in the end they had both the debt AND the fees.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    79. Lesdx
    'Incidentally, 10% (TEN PERCENT) of the NHS budget is spent on 'Mental Health Disorders'!'

    Which cave did you just emerge from? Mental health disorders are some of the most debilitating illnesses of all. Modern medicine recognises this fact, it's a shame you haven't caught up!

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.


    Why not spend more?

    After all the WTO last years surveryed all western health systems and found the NHS to be the MOST EFFICIENT health service in the world.....we currently spend less (as % of GDP) than most western countries too.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    there is incredible waste in the NHS Because every 2 to 3 yrs another bunch of numpties change everything. IT are systems developed by people with no idea. I'm forced to use three separate systems in my job none of which talk to each other all of which time out for security so I spend a large proportion of my time just logging in.......
    Oh god I could go on but its too depressing

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    Politicians make statements such as “The NHS is safe in our hands” and are surprised if we don’t believe them!

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    Get rid of the NHS, its an idealistic non achiever. Immigration and the incessant need for people to have children will swamp the NHS in the forthcoming years as well as every other public service and with so much bureaucracy it will never last. Privatise it and let everyone pay for health insurance and put the tax money into fixing the economy and into other public sectors.

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    Simple cut pay, maintain the services. Cut out the most expensive treatments. Health spending is a bottomless pit, people will always want more whatever they have. Yes I may die earlier, like everyone else, so what?

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    Too many foreign doctors (can't speak English)
    Too many apathetic nurses (can't be bothered)
    Too many managers (can't manage)
    Too many administrators (can't count)
    Too much immigration. (can't do anything about it)

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    NHS programme budget for England 2010/11 £107 bn. Population for England 2011 53 million. Cost for every man, woman and child £2,000. This is ONE year. You can get a lot of health insurance for that!

    Incidentally, 10% (TEN PERCENT) of the NHS budget is spent on 'Mental Health Disorders'!

    And people still say spend more on the NHS! They're living in cloud cockoo land.

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    The NHS has been slowly strangled by red tape for the last umpteen years. Increased inspections, audits and bureaucracy does little for staff morale. We all deserve equal access to healthcare which is constantly evolving with new drugs, procedures and expertise. I want my taxes spent on on frontline services not the inflated salaries and pension pots of the numerous directors and chief execs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    63.The Ace Face
    Thats right Bupa do sometimes refer a patient back to the NHS and if the patient has bupa cover, bupa will pick the bill up and its usually higher than had of been given privately.

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    Several commentators have identified immigrants as a problem for NHS funding. What about the ex pat Brits who return to the UK for therr investigations and treatment then disappear back to their sunny villa's? Your NI contribution is like car insurance - stop paying and you are no longer covered but try telling the ex pats that.


Page 13 of 17


More Health stories



Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.