NHS needs more money, say senior Tory and Lib Dem MPs

NHS hospital Image copyright SPL
Image caption The number of hospital patients being treated within 18 weeks of being referred by their GP has fallen below 90 per cent for the first time

The NHS needs more money to avoid a funding crisis, senior Conservative and Lib Dem MPs have warned.

Sarah Wollaston, Conservative chair of the Commons health select committee, said the NHS was facing "crunch time".

Her comments were echoed by Lib Dem former health minister Paul Burstow who warned the NHS could collapse within five years without extra money.

The Department of Health said it was confident of making £20bn in savings to reinvest in frontline care.

Mr Burstow put the level of extra funding needed for the NHS to function properly at £15bn over five years.

Ageing population

Dr Wollaston told the BBC the NHS was "coping remarkably well" but that future funding was "under immense pressure".

She said: "We have protected spending on health. It is rising in line - just above - background inflation, but inflation in the health sector is much higher because we have got an ageing population.

"So many more people are living with several long-term conditions and of course we have got amazing advances in technology and we need to be able to fund all those things."

Dr Wollaston said the service was not "doomed to failure" but added: "We know that over the next few years, we are going to run into a real crunch time with funding and what's necessary now is for NHS England to set out very clearly what can be achieved within various funding limits.

"In other words - are we going to be able to increase funding, or will something have to give?"

She added: "Personally, I'd like to see services continue to improve, so I think in order to achieve that we are going to need an increase in funding."

Dr Wollaston said it would be "key" to "get the best value out of the resources we have" over the coming years.

'Rising demand'

Stephen Dorrell, also a Conservative and her predecessor as chair of the health select committee, said he would be ashamed if the government failed to increase NHS funding when the economy was growing.

"I am in favour of the government not denying what 5,000 years of history tells us is true, which is that every time a society gets richer it spends a rising share of its income on looking after the sick and the vulnerable," he told The Observer.

Image caption Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston is among those calling for increased NHS spending

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "We've taken tough decisions to protect the NHS budget, which is allowing us to strengthen family doctoring, reform out of hospital care, and improve GP access for 7.5 million people across the country.

"The NHS is also on track to make £20bn [in] savings this parliament to reinvest into frontline care and we are confident that it will continue to make the savings necessary to meet rising demand."

The MPs' comments on funding came as the health secretary spoke of plans to publicly name GPs with a poor record in spotting signs of cancer.

Jeremy Hunt said he wanted to expose doctors whose failure to spot cancer may delay patients receiving potentially life-saving scans.

Doctors found to be missing too many cases of cancer or with patients who are forced to make repeated visits before being referred for tests would be marked with a red flag. Those found with quick referral times for patients would be given a green rating.

The Royal College of GPs said it would be a "crude" system and one that could lead to GPs sending people to specialists indiscriminately. It warned this could result in flooding hospitals with healthy people.

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