England’s outgoing chief inspector of hospitals believes that more money should be spent on hospitals, but also concedes that funding is not the sole answer to the NHS crisis.
Prof Sir Mike Richards says that the health services in a particularly worrying condition, and that urgent investment must be a priority.
In particular, Richards suggested that a pay rise for nurses is essential, and asserted that the NHS will have problems returning nursing staff if this is not instigated.
But the chief inspector of hospitals also suggested that other improvements could be made without spending vast amounts of money.
“Even at times of austerity, when the money hasn’t been coming through fast, we have seen a number of hospitals actually getting better during that time [and] a number of mental health trusts getting better because they have focused on what really matters to patients, on patient safety, on the whole leadership agenda within these hospitals, in order to engage their staff and deliver better care,” Richards told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
The executive effectively repeated the message that had previously been promoted by Theresa May, namely that the NHS must spend money more effectively, as opposed to simply being given additional funding.
Experts have stated that the investment pledged to the health service by the Tories would be significantly less than is needed.
But Richards acknowledged that wise investment should be considered critical.
“Two things can be true at the same time. There’s no doubt the NHS needs more money because of increasing demand on it and the need to transform services. But [it’s] also true, as we have seen, that things can be done better without more money. And that is what we’re encouraging, alongside saying yes, we will need more money.”
Richards also believes that more must be done to retain staff following the recent EU referendum on Brexit, which is expected to impact on the NHS.
“The workforce of the NHS and, indeed, the care system generally is absolutely critical and we do need to have more staff – we do need to recruit those staff – and that’s true in virtually every sector that we look at. Of course, if we are leaving the EU, there is a threat to that, which we need to make sure is being dealt with so that we aren’t losing staff and we can then replace them and, if necessary, to grow our own, if you like.”
And Richards also called for “far greater integration between GPs, hospitals, care homes and community health services to make that work”.
Richards was an Imperial Cancer Research Fund research fellow in medical oncology at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London (1982–86), and then an oncology consultant at Guy’s Hospital in London (1986–95), becoming a Reader in 1991.
He received his CBE in 2001 and his knighthood in 2010, and in 2014 he received a Cancer Research UK Lifetime Achievement Award.