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.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Zedboy private care is far worse than NHS care which is audited like crazy. When your private insurance won't cover you for a heart op, radiotherapy or long term drugs (as it so often does) remember your words.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Successive Governments have done a tremendous dis-service to the people of the UK by creating a culture of dependence and entitlement. It was easy to fund these programs in times of plenty but those times are over. Now these programs are funded by debt. Simple economics dictates that no matter what people feel about the virtues of free health care, if you can't fund it, you can't have it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    As always, people turning this into a Tory bashing exercise. Perhaps if those folks' "beloved Tony" had not taken us to two illegal wars costing hundreds of billions of pounds then we would have more money to spend on the NHS ????

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    I agree with comment 7 (Nautonier). I work for the NHS and the demand on the services are absolutely unbelievable. We should start charging the patients who enter the UK whether holiday or to live who haven't paid anything into our tax system.

    People are very quick to tear the NHS apart when something bad happens but should remember the fantastic things the NHS do day in and day out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    I lost my father to MRSA contracted whilst under NHS "care" in hospital. He was cared for on many different wards in two separate hospitals and the general standard of nursing was high but cleanliness was very poor.

    I blame management who are responsible for quality processes, quality audits, training and implementation of agreed service levels. If there funding is cut this can only get worse.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    It's a huge organisation, so it's always easy to find a bad personal experience to share tabloid style.

    It does a remarkably good job all things considered. Think how great it could be if it those nervous politicians (of all colours) actually had the nerve to press the 'nucleur' button and privatise it and get rid of all that public sector change-aversion and apathy?

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    Like we couldn't see that coming while the Tories are in charge, in a recession, after Labour were in charge.
    They say if you forget history you're doomed to repeat it but seems to me the 20th century was on a repeat - Labour in, spend too much, Tories in, don't spend, Labour in etc etc.
    No wonder so many people don't bother voting.

    PS - want to try and save the NHS google 38 degrees

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    NHS choked with demand from immigrants - come costing £ millions in treatment when have never paid a single penny into system.
    Solution is obvious - must restrict access to immigrants & require them to buy health insurance policies before sytem collapses. British kids being shown glossy brochures by foreign NHS dentists for routine dental treatments costing £'s thousands - Urgent action needed

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Ring fence NHS funding i.e let it fall at rate of inflation. Introduce a, hugely expensive, top down reorganization with 16 more levels of bureaucracy and you have problems.

    Then "the private sector will sort this out with more competition". Sell off huge chunks, the profitable bits to the Bullingdon Club boys. Leave the care homes and less profitable bits to deteriorate. A Tory plan, no doubt.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Hmm, this latest "announcement" is obviously a precursor for the government selling off even more of our NHS to their corporate pals.

    The strategy seems to be : let the NHS deliberately fail, and then sell it off at a knockdown price.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    The NHS is a precious asset and we must not allow it to deteriorate. It flourished post war when there was very little money around, so it can only be political will that stunts its growth now.
    The Health Service is worth fighting for. Let us join the fight!

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Huh, it's already terrible.

    I got 4 appointment changes when trying to get cancer results, with the final appointment sent being for a date already passed.

    I never got my results, and I have zero faith in that hospital now.

    I know others diagnosed with serious diseases, only to find out later that the tests results were false.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    it will be worse, my broter in law has just started as a doctor

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    NHS could get better.

    Stop scaremongering!


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