Audit Scotland Warns on NHS Book Balancing

Audit Scotland has predicted that it will be impossible for some Scottish health boards to balance their books.

The prediction comes amid a turbulent financial period for the NHS.

Audit Scotland provides the Auditor General and the Accounts Commission with services to check that public money is spent efficiently and effectively.

And the organisation is very concerned about the state of finances in the Scottish NHS.

“NHS boards are facing increasing costs each year, for example drug costs increased by 10%, allowing for inflation, between 2012/13 and 2014/15. NHS boards will need to make unprecedented levels of savings in 2016/17 and there is a risk that some will not be able to achieve financial balance,” the Audit Scotland report asserts.

In order to address the situation, the watchdog believes that massive savings will need to be made during the existing financial year.

Meanwhile, NHS funding is failing to keep pace with the increasing demands on services in Scotland.

Thus, it is perhaps not surprising that performance is also beginning to diminish for the Scottish NHS.

Audit Scotland’s annual report on the NHS said performance had actually declined in six of the eight targets measured over the past four years.

Health Secretary Shona Robison insisted the Scottish government had made “significant improvements”.

Robison also spoke of an explicit strategy that exists with the intention of turning the fortune of the NHS in Scotland around.

The report claimed that Scottish NHS organisations face a challenge in balancing performance requirements with expenditure needs.

“Boards are struggling to meet the majority of key national standards and the balance of care, in terms of spending, is still not changing. It is difficult balancing the demand for hospital care, alongside providing more care in the community. Boards need to ensure they maintain high-quality hospitals, while investing in more community-based facilities.”

An ageing NHS workforce in the nation is also problematical, with problems training and recruiting staff also apparent.

Commenting on the issue, Caroline Gardner, the Auditor General for Scotland, suggested that joined-up thinking is essential in solving the problems.

“The Scottish government has had a policy to shift the balance of care for over a decade but despite multiple strategies for reform, NHS funding has not changed course. Before that shift can occur, there needs to be a clear and detailed plan for change, setting out what the future of the NHS looks like, what it will cost to deliver and the workforce numbers and skills needed to make it a reality.”

Already there has been considerable political debate in Scotland over the Audit Scotland report.

 
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Overseas Visitors Target Set to be Missed

It is anticipated that the government will miss targets over overseas visitors.

The government had pledged to recover £500 million from such individuals treated within the NHS system.

But the Department of Health has revised its target for 2017-18 to just under £350 million, according to the National Audit Office.

£289 million was recovered in the previous financial year, which was at least a significant increase on the £73 million recovered in 2012-13.

The Department of Health claims that this increase represents “very good progress”.

It seems that there is still something of a gap of understanding in relation to this issue.

Only 58% of hospital doctors knew some people were chargeable for NHS healthcare at all, according to figures compiled by the Office for National Statistics.

There was also considerable variation across the NHS system regarding the ability of trusts to recover monies.

Nonetheless, the report asserted that the usage of technology by the Department of Health had aided the process.

Head of the National Audit Office, Amyas Morse, nonetheless outlined that progress needs to be made in this area.

“Hospital trusts remain some way from complying in full with the requirement to charge and recover the cost of treating overseas visitors. “If current trends continue and the charging rules remain the same, the department will not achieve its ambition of recovering up to £500m of overseas visitor income a year by 2017-18.”

Responding to the report, a Department of Health spokeswoman outlined some of the progress made in this area.

“This government was the first to put in place measures to ensure the NHS isn’t abused, and as this report finds, we are making very good progress – the amount of income recovered has already more than trebled in three years to £289m. We consulted earlier this year on extending the charging of migrants and visitors using the NHS to other areas of healthcare. We will set out further steps in due course to ensure we deliver on our objective to recover £500m a year by the middle of this parliament.”

 
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NHS Trust Launches Crowdfunding Appeal for New Unit

An NHS trust has been forced to resort for crowdfunding in order to purchase equipment for a new hospital unit.

The Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital (RNOH) in Stanmore, north west London, believes that it will be impossible to get this unit started without donations from the general public.

Government money is currently diverted to frontline staff and services according to the trust, ensuring that investment in updating facilities is problematical.

Responding to the news, the GMB union described it as a “damning indictment” of NHS funding.

The ‘Make it Possible’ project is a first for any NHS trust and breaks new ground, with the ideas for improving care coming from patients and families.

RNOH is hoping to fund a spinal injuries unit from the crowdfunding project, with new equipment to rehabilitate patients and additional beds particularly targeted.

Despite criticism, the campaign has already raised £126,000 of the £400,000 pounds that the hospital ultimately hopes to gather via donations.

Rob Hurd, chief executive at the RNOH, explained that the crowdfunding campaign is simply a necessity.

“We have to be frank, capital is constrained in our National Health Service and investment in facilities is really difficult at this time. We are putting all our money into frontline nurses, doctors and providing the services. That means the infrastructure that we have got doesn’t get replaced as quickly as we would like. So we need the help of donations and charitable sources to make those additional investments. So we really value those donations because without them we cannot even get started”.

The Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital is a world-leading treatment centre for spinal cord injuries

Every year the hospital deals with more than 2,000 patients from all over the UK.

But the infrastructure of the hospital is decaying somewhat, with the institution comprising numerous ageing buildings and portable cabins, some of which date back as far as the war years.

And National Secretary of the GMB, Rehana Azam, was strongly critical of the government policy which has made such an approach necessary.

“That the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital is asking members of the public to crowdfund improvements is a damning indictment of this government’s reluctance to properly fund the NHS. It seems that it’s not just workers and patients who’re expected to suffer at the hands of NHS cuts; apparently the public’s bank balances are too.”

A Department of Health spokesperson stated that £10 billion is being invested nationwide into the NHS, including about £4 billion extra this year and a further £20 billion to fund capital programmes such as maintenance and building projects.

 
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NHS Rationing Statins Due to Financial Desperation

Leading doctors have indicated that statins are being rationed by the NHS in a desperate move to reduce expenditure, despite the fact that the drugs often cost a matter of pennies.

Health watchdogs have condemned the decision to limit access to the heart-related medicine, asserting that the wider prescription of statins had been recommended in order to save lives.

However, despite criticism over what many will see as penny-pinching, it is worth remembering that statins remain something of a controversial medicine.

Many believe that simple lifestyle factors, such as increased exercise, improved diet, ceasing smoking and reducing alcohol intake, are more effective than taking the drugs in question.

The drugs, which reduce the cholesterol level of patients, cost less than 10p per patient per day, underlining the rather bizarre nature of this particular financial decision.

This latest financial move can be placed in the context of an extremely challenging healthcare climate, in which NHS trusts face massive deficits, while being tasked with achieving billions of pounds worth of efficiency savings.

But Stockport CCG has caused fury from senior doctors and from Nice, after ordering local GPs to ignore the Nice advice, instead restricting the drugs to those at greatest risk.

It seems difficult to defend the decision to limit access to statins, considering the relatively trivial amount of money involved.

Dr Andrew Green, chairman of a British Medical Association committee on prescribing, believes that funding is at the heart of the issue, and the statin prescription can be considered a mere symptom of a wider malaise.

“So many CCGs are in deficit due to under-funding, and the pressure on them to achieve financial balance is so great that we are beginning to see some very strange decisions born out of desperation.”

The CCG released a statement outlining the reasons behind the statin rationing.

“The CCG was required to make some decisions on savings to achieve financial balance and long-term financial health. The plan included a decision to not implement the NICE lipid modification guidelines for primary prevention in full.”

But Professor Mark Baker, director of the centre for clinical practice at Nice, was critical of the CCG’s decision, believing it could be a policy that ultimately indirectly kills.

“Cardiovascular disease maims and kills people through coronary heart disease, peripheral arterial disease and stroke. Together, these kill one in three of us. This decision amounts to denying patients access to the most effective means of reducing that risk. Our guidance is intended to prevent many lives being destroyed and it offers a major shift in public health outcomes at relatively low cost.”

Responding to the widespread criticism, a Department of Health spokesperson defended its health service funding, and indicated that statin rationing is not obligatory.

“Doctors should make decisions about prescribing statins based on clinical evidence – there should be no blanket restrictions. We are giving the NHS more money – £4 billion this year – to fund its own plan for the future, and it’s vital that money is spent effectively.”

 
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Government Putting Financial Pressure on Trusts’ Fiscal Reporting

As the health service faces increasing financial pressure, reports suggest that NHS trusts are being incentivised by the government to change the way that they report on their finances.

And critics believe this is little short of a desperate attempt to reduce a massive health service deficit that would generate negative headlines, and indicates that the NHS is on the verge of malfunctioning.

By the end of the fiscal year, it is possible that the health service will have accumulated a financial deficit of £3 billion, and it is certain that the best case scenario will be a deficit in the region of £2.5 billion.

This is the highest in the history of the health service, and is indicative of widespread failures by trusts across the NHS to cut spending and operate more efficiently.

However, leaked documents indicate that the Department of Health has embarked on a national programme to change current accountancy practices, and to encourage trusts to be more optimistic about their financial problems.

Briefing documents indicate that trusts will be asked whether they are being excessively prudent in forecasting income received from outside the NHS, or how much they are likely to spend on agency doctors and nurses.

Nineteen specific accounting areas are to be explored, such as reclassifying assets so they are kept off the balance sheets, or extending their asset lives so they can be valued more highly.

Sally Gainsbury, senior policy analyst at thinktank the Nuffield Trust, was extremely critical of the practices outlined in the documents, suggesting that they are little short of outright fraud.

“This definitely falls into the area of fiddles – being clever about when you book income and when you book expenditure. It pushes most of the problems into the next financial year, it does not solve them. No one is thinking about the long term position. It is misleading the public about what the NHS’s costs really are.”

It is clear that the financial situation of the NHS is increasingly desperate, and the latest figures raise the prospect of the Department of Health receiving a Treasury bailout.

Figures from NHS regulators show that the deficit for the first three quarters of the year is already £2.26bn; triple what it was for the whole of the previous year.

Despise the government having pledged an additional £8.4 billion to the NHS, experts generally believe that this will be greatly insufficient to balance the books.

There is also considerable scepticism that it will be remotely possible for the NHS to achieve the £22 billion of efficiency savings that have been targeted by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne.

 
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Guardian Newspaper Concludes that NHS Financial Crash Inevitable

A report in The Guardian newspaper has concluded that a financial crash in the NHS is essentially inevitable based on existing figures.

The extent of the financial woes in the health service is well-documented, with trusts across the NHS in England facing a collective deficit in excess of £2 billion.

Indeed, The Guardian references the Public Accounts Committee’s recent verdict on hospital finances, and concludes that the final figure for the existing fiscal year will probably exceed £2.5 billion.

It seems absolutely clear that this cannot be sustained over a significant period of time, and indeed The Guardian draws this precise conclusion.

The Guardian also references the fact that NHS England and Monitor have both been subjected to severe criticism recently, particularly with regard to the setting of unrealistic efficiency targets.

This has damaged the financial position of many trusts, and also created an impression that NHS departments all over the country are fundamentally failing to deliver adequate provisions and services.

Indeed, NHS England has conceded this point, and the efficiency targets have been cut from 4% to 2% for the coming year.

MPs involved in the Public Accounts Committee report suggested that the NHS has massive problems to solve with regard to agency staff, and until there was credible progress on this and other serious issues, that the goal of making efficiency savings of £22 billion would be forlorn.

While funds have been set up in order to address the financial and logistical problems in the NHS, figures also indicate that these have already been largely exhausted.

For example, all but about £340m of NHS England’s £2.14bn Sustainability and Transformation Fund has been soaked up in stabilising the system.

The situation in the NHS is now so serious that the delay in making decisions about the future of the NHS has potentially serious consequences.

As The Guardian notes, there is now a heightened risk that the Department of Health will end the next financial year in breach of its revenue expenditure budget authorised by parliament.

Of course, the Department of Health itself has resolutely defended the expenditure and budget of the NHS.

But it is clear is that both government policy and plans for the future of the health service are proving unsatisfactory for its effective operation.

It is now 18 month since the Five Year Forward View document was published, which was intended to outline the path towards an innovative vision of new models of care, improved clinical quality, a better experience for patients, and financial sustainability.

Yet the financial crisis in the NHS is now so severe that The Guardian newspaper opines that it is all but impossible to see anything approaching an acceptable long-term outcome.

 
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Former Chief Executive of Addenbrooke’s Paints Bleak NHS Picture

The former chief executive of Addenbrooke’s has suggested that the “NHS is collapsing around our ears”.

World-renowned lung physician Dr Keith McNeil, who was drafted in by Cambridge University Hospitals (CUH) three years ago as a “change agent”, was speaking at a major health debate in London.

Organised by the NHS Confederation and the Nuffield Trust, it was the first in a joint series of ‘Daring to ask’ events asking some of the most pressing questions facing healthcare today.

Chaired by Sarah Montague from the BBC’s Today Programme, the debate posed the question of whether NHS services are on the brink of fundamental change or collapse.

McNeil, who quit from his post a week before CUH was rated ‘inadequate’ by the Care Quality Commission, opined that the the system was making it increasingly difficult for medics to do their jobs adequately.

“Addenbrooke’s was definitely changing I was brought over here as a change agent and the system systematically stopped me from doing what I was brought over to do. Make no mistake the NHS is collapsing around our ears. If you’re a clinician on the front line trying to do your work, that’s what’s holding the NHS together at the moment,” McNeil asserted.

The clinical expert also spoke of the dedication of NHS staff, while emphasising that the future of the health service was being compromised by underfunding and logistical and organisational difficulties.

“Is the dedication, passion commitment of clinicians on the front line and the system we’ve set up is making it increasingly difficult every day for them to do their job effectively. There’s lots of rhetoric, lots of good ideas, well intentioned people but there’s no pace, no urgency. It’s about time we woke up, we’ve got more pilots in the NHS than British Airways. We need to get on and do things.”

McNeil also suggested some possible solutions to the existing issues, and ways for the NHS to move forward more effectively.

“What needed to happen was to integrate the system across primary care, social care community care, third sector acute providers bringing it altogether in one big piece so it’s all integrated, all working together on behalf of the patients.”

Official figures indicate that A&Es in England incurred the worst monthly performance last month since the target of 95% was first introduced in 2004.

Data for January from NHS England showed 88.7 per cent of patients were dealt with in four hours.

Dr McNeil asserted the extra £8billion for the NHS promised by the government would not help with the rise in demand without some “dramatic change in the way we provide healthcare”.

“What we are applying is the classic acute hospital model to try and treat an aging population with chronic disease, and the two things don’t marry up,” McNeil added.

The comments of McNeil follow a turbulent time for Addenbrooke’s.

It is currently facing a possible £2.34million fine, which could be imposed if the hospital fails to meet its monthly targets in the current calendar month.

 
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NHS Deficit Exceeds Worst Estimates as Crisis Deepens

Financial figures have indicated that the deficit in the NHS in England is even worse than feared.

Health bosses had expected the health service to go £2 billion into the red by the end of the fiscal year.

But official numbers now confirm that the NHS is already £2.3 billion in deficit after just nine months of the existing financial year.

Regulators had previously suggested that attempts to reduce the rising costs in the NHS were having a successful impact.

Yet the latest figures would suggest that this process has been by no means as positive as indicated.

Pressures created by rising demands for care, high costs and problems with being able to discharge medically fit patients to suitable care outside hospital were blamed for the huge deficit.

Analysts have suggested that the figures are indicative of difficulties within the NHS in capping the number of agency staff resident.

Indeed, this impression has been confirmed by recent Freedom of Information requests, with data indicating that nearly £1 billion more is being spent on agency staff than was intended.

Monitor and the NHS Trust Development authority jointly released the figures, as the clock counts down to the cessation of Monitor and creation of the new NHS Improvement regulator.

The extent of financial difficulties in the NHS is underlined by the fact that the overall deficit is already over £600 million worse than planned for.

Meanwhile, over 75% of providers are currently in the red.

John Appleby, the King’s Fund chief economist, was in no doubt that the figure should be seen as significant.

“This has significant implications. Any shortfall will come out of next year’s budget, eating into the extra funding provided in the [government’s] spending review and leaving even less money for essential changes to services. If an end-of-year deficit approaches the worst-case scenario laid out in these figures – £2.8bn – it is hard to see how the Department of Health will avoid overspending its budget for the year, something that has never happened before.”

Meanwhile, Paul Briddock, the policy director for professional body the Healthcare Financial Management Association, pointed out that the situation was far worse than had been predicted.

“The writing’s on the wall – the deficit has already far exceeded what was originally forecast. It’s also disappointing to see many key performance targets are not hitting the mark, including waiting times for A&E, referral to treatment and 62-day cancer waits.”

The Department of Health defended the financial position of the health service, pointing to £10 billion of extra investment, but it seems that the NHS faces absolutely massive financial challenges in the short-to-medium-term.

 
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Anonymous Whistleblower Outlines NHS Financial Pressures to MPs

In revelations that will shock both the health service and the government, a whistleblower has suggested that hospitals all over the NHS face pressure from regulators to fudge financial figures.

With an increasing emphasis being placed on reducing deficits, a former finance director has suggested that numerous NHS institutions are effectively cooking their books.

In anonymous evidence given to the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, the finance chief told MPs that he and his colleagues are concerned that national regulators are pressurising NHS providers to be deliberately deceitful about their financial performance.

This would hardly be the first time that a public sector organisation has been guilty of creative accountancy in order to give a false impression both to Members of Parliament and the general public.

With the health service having been tasked with achieving a £22 billion pounds of efficiency savings by the end of the decade, the Impetus throughout the NHS is one of thriftiness.

And it seems that the hospitals are increasingly feeling under excessive pressure to appear fiscally prudent, even when the real picture may be worse than indicated.

It now seems that’s the NHS moment of a deficit in excess of £3 billion In this calendar year, meaning that Even the worst estimates from earlier this year have turned out to be excessively optimistic.

“My fear is that some finance directors may be pressurized into taking the wrong judgments and making inaccurate claims to keep the regulator at bay. I fear for finance directors being put under similar pressure to ‘cook the books,” the whistleblower commented.

Economic and political critics alike have already suggested that private finance initiatives (PFI) are crippling the NHS, and that the legacy of the Blair government towards the health service is the excessive implementation of these debt-based financial arrangements.

The People vs PFI group, is calling for Britain’s PFI contracts to be rendered null and void, but it seems extremely unlikely that the private interests which agreed these schemes will be willing to simply step aside.

Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Heidi Alexander made some acerbic comments about the finances in the NHS, suggesting that Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is doing an extremely poor job of regulating the fiscal balance of this esteemed institution.

“The fact that some hospital staff even feel under pressure to fiddle the figures is incredibly worrying. Hospitals are facing a financial deficit of over £2 billion this year and on top of that they are being asked to make eye-watering ‘efficiency savings. Experts have said that efficiencies on this scale could put patient safety at risk.”

As evidence grows that funding cuts are hitting patients, it seems that the worst news regarding the financial state of the NHS may still be ahead of us.

 
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NHS Trust Accumulates Record Financial Deficit

The biggest hospital trust in England has just set another record; accumulating the largest ever overspend in the history of the health service.

Barts Health NHS Trust, responsible for operating four hospitals in East London and employing 15,000 people serving an area of 2.5 million potential patients, has smashed all financial records in NHS history…and not in a good way.

Having run up a deficit of £135 million, its total overspend is nearly 70% larger than for the previous financial year.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the previous overspend was the previous highest deficit in the history of the NHS; indicating that this trust certainly needs a new financial direction.

However, this figure is no longer the second largest deficit in the history of the health service, as it has been revealed that another London trust has now exceeded the figure from last year.

London North West Healthcare NHS Trust, which operates four hospitals, had suffered such a sharp decline in its finances that it was due to end the year £88.3m in the red.

Commenting on the figures, Prof Chris Ham, chief executive of the independent health thinktank, the King’s Fund, opined that they were indicative of a broader financial malaise.

“These forecast deficits provide further evidence of the escalating financial crisis in the NHS, as well as the longstanding challenges facing London’s health system. In the case of Barts, these pressures have been exacerbated by the costs of a major PFI development.”

Now that these figures have been reported, what can be said with some confidence is that the extra £1.8 billion of funding that has been came out for the NHS in England next year is likely to be insufficient.

Indeed, the aforementioned Ham is sceptical about the Conservative government’s plans for the NHS.

“The extra funding provided by the government is being used mainly to get the NHS back into financial balance but even this must be in doubt given the scale of the deficits now being reported. 2016/17 will be a make-or-break year for the NHS.”

In defence of Barts, the sheer size of the trust means that in percentage terms the deficit is perhaps not more significant than other similar figures.

But the fact that numerous NHS trusts are now running up massive deficits indicates the difficulty of the financial challenges now facing the health service and those responsible for it.

Analysts are already suggesting that the incredible size and scale of deficits facing trusts in London in particular means that extra money is increasingly unlikely to reach local practices or improve access for patients.

 
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Monitor Instructs NHS Trusts Nationwide to Begin Staff Cull

Hospitals are being instructed to cut staffing levels significantly as the NHS grapples with a growing funding crisis.

The decision made by NHS regulators will leave critical healthcare professionals such as nurses and other frontline medical workers facing unemployment.

NHS regulators have taken the controversial decision despite intense concern among hospital bosses and health unions that reducing staff will hit quality of care, patient safety and staff morale, while increasing waiting times.

Yet Monitor and the NHS Trust Development Authority (TDA) have nonetheless issued the instruction to reduce staffing levels, despite ministers having previously ordered hospitals to do the opposite just three years ago.

Aside from the financial issues, many workers at the coalface in the NHS will wonder how such a policy can be carried out, while also delivering the seven-day culture of which David Cameron has spoken.

With some NHS trusts slipping well into deficit, the new policy rubber stamped by monitor could lead to massive redundancies.

For example, Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge has been losing £1.2m a week during 2015-16 and could end the year £60m in deficit.

To put this into perspective, axing 25 nurses would save around £1 million pounds annually.

But despite criticism, it is evident that the regulators have moved in order to address the spiralling deficits of the NHS, which are projected to be over £2 billion by the end of the fiscal year.

Some of the hospital trusts that are most in the red have been told to use “headcount reduction” to reduce their deficit for 2015-16.

This procedural demand is specifically stated in a letter submitted by Monitor and the TDA to each of the 241 NHS trusts that are supervised by the two regulators.

The letter in question informed trusts that they should be dramatically reducing their financial distress in order to receive money from a £1.8 billion bailout which will become available in April.

It is hoped that this diversion of funding will enable the NHS to stabilise its financial position, while efficiency savings kick in over the next 12 months.

The letter, signed by the TDA deputy chief executive, Bob Alexander, and his Monitor counterpart, Stephen Hay, comments that numerous actions are being considered by the NHS, including enforced redundancies.

“We will be meeting a number of challenged providers this month to agree a set of actions, including headcount reduction, additional to the current plan, with the clear intention of improving the financial position of those individual providers.”

Richard Murray, the King’s Fund’s director of policy, immediately indicated his belief that patients would fundamentally suffer from this decision.

“If trusts do begin to reduce headcount the impact on patients would be swift, through either rising waiting times or reduced quality of care or both. Three years on from Robert Francis’s report into Mid Staffs, which emphasises that safe staffing was the key to maintaining quality of care, the financial meltdown in the NHS now means that the policy is being abandoned for hospitals that have run out of money.”

While Labour’s Heidi Alexander, was equally critical. “At the last election, the Tories promised to ensure hospitals had enough staff to meet patient demand. However, less than a year later they’re asking hospitals to draw up plans to reduce staff numbers.”

A Department of Health spokesman defended the plans, and emphasised that the regulators would ensure that staffing levels remain sufficient to deliver outstanding care to patients.

“We expect all parts of the NHS to have safe staffing levels – making sure they have the right staff, in the right place, at the right time.”

The spokesman indicated that the NHS now employed 6,100 fewer managers and almost 30,000 more clinical staff than in 2010.

 
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Figures Indicate that UK Health Spending Compares Unfavourably with Euro Neighbours

According to research conducted by the King’s Fund, Britain is spending significantly less on its health service compared to international neighbours.

And the organisation predicts that by the end of the decade the figures spent on health in the United Kingdom will be more than £43 billion less than the average spend by Eurozone countries.

The UK is devoting a diminishing proportion of GDP to health and is now a lowly 13th out of the original 15 EU members in terms of investment.

While the government claims that it has invested a significant tranche of cash into the health service, this latest research contradicts these claims.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, had already promised an additional £8.4 billion in real terms by the end of the decade.

However, the NHS faces deficits of £30 billion by 2020, and the lion’s share of this is to be addressed via efficiency savings.

Commenting on this report, Heidi Alexander, the shadow health secretary, suggested that the government policy is nothing less than a dereliction of duty towards a revered British institution.

“No amount of spin from ministers can disguise the fact that this decade is set to be marked by the longest and deepest squeeze on NHS finances in a generation. Our country is increasingly looking like the sick person of Europe, with spending on health falling far behind other neighbouring countries. This squeeze on health spending is bad for the NHS and it is bad for patients. It is clear that our health service is going to need much more money than this government is prepared to spend.”

Professor John Appleby, who led the study, outlined the raw data behind the assertion of the King’s Fund in an article.

“UK GDP is forecast to grow in real terms by around 15.2% between 2014-15 and 2020-21. But on current plans, UK NHS spending will grow by much less – 5.2%. This is equivalent to around £7bn in real terms, increasing from £135bn in 2014-15 to £142bn in 2020-21. But if spending kept pace with growth in the economy, by 2020-21 the UK NHS would be spending around £158bn at today’s prices – £16bn more than planned.”

It is increasingly obvious based on the avalanche of data emerging that massive investment is required in the NHS in the foreseeable future.

This is succinctly illustrated by the funding problems that the health service faces, coupled with a raft of logistical and labour-related issues.

The report from the King’s Fund simply provides another example of this increasingly evident trend.

However, commenting on the latest research, the Department of Health nevertheless defended The existing NHS budget.

“Rather than there being a political decision about levels of spending on healthcare, for the first time ever, the NHS said collectively in the Five Year Forward View what it needed for the future to transform services for patients. We’re meeting our side of the bargain, with £10bn more from a strong economy, raising the NHS budget to the highest level in its history and increasing spending every year. We will also ensure the NHS gives good value for taxpayers.”

 
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