NHS could get worse from 2013, say finance chiefs

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

Next year could be the turning point for the NHS in England when finances unravel and the quality of care starts to get worse, finance chiefs say.

The King's Fund research, based on its own analysis and interviews with 45 finance directors, found that standards were currently being upheld.

But it warned from 2013 that would get more difficult and care could suffer.

The government, which has promised the health service will be protected, said the NHS was coping well.

The NHS has been set a target of making £20bn of savings by 2015 - the equivalent of about 5% a year.

The majority of the NHS finance chiefs who took part in the think tank's study said they were managing to make them at the moment without harming care.

The King's Fund said these sentiments were supported by the latest performance statistics which showed the NHS was performing well.

Start Quote

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”

End Quote John Appleby King's Fund

Waiting times in A&E and for non-emergency operations, such as knee and hip replacements, had fallen slightly and were well within target, while hospital infections rates continued to drop.

'Turning point'

But that could change in 2013, the research suggested.

A total of 27 of the 45 finance directors which took part in the online questionnaire said there was now a high or very high risk that NHS would not meet its savings target by 2015.

Nineteen of the panel said they expected care to worsen over the next few years, with only eight believing it would get better.

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.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    7: While it's quite popular to blame immigration the main problem for the NHS is spiralling contining healthcare costs. As treatments get better and mortality rates fall across the board the cost of care for serious illness and end of life care (which can be years) falls to the NHS. This will be the biggest factor for me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    The culture of dependency on doctors in UK was nurtured by doctors (Ref Common Cold, Wikipedia) and politicians. This has increased demand, antibiotic abuse, cost, undermined the confidence of patients and the quality of care declined. Over zealous urge to commercialise has brought shame to medical profession but they doctors are helpless to bring in changes as they will be ostracised.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Created in the aftermath of a devastating war, the NHS is being stolen from under our noses.

    If this was a caring society it could provide all that anyone in our nation 'needed'. i.e. Why do nurses 'pay' for accomodation?

    Our society has been brutalised by successive governments with commercial interests, ever since the 50's.

    The momentum will pick up even more due to the 'downturn' in profits.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    The NHS was created so that the UK population would not have to suffer due to an individuals circumstances. But we appear to have forgotton this and now treat anyone, who wants anything. And when the NHS is under strain, they just employ a few more managers to sort it out. If I can see how far the NHS has drifted, why can't those with the 'intellect' to run the country see it too?

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    How about getting some of the large number of people on the doll to earn their doll money by getting them to help clean the hospitals.


Comments 5 of 19


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