After figures emerged which indicated that the NHS currently faces a deficit of £900 million, a new report from the King’s Fund Further underlines the difficulties within the healthcare system.
The think tank believes believes that hospital closures and bed cuts will be an absolute necessity, as the NHS scrambles to save money.
This will be considered hugely controversial considering the pressure already being heaped on the hospital system due to the the lack of social care provision.
Meanwhile, it is already known that the number of beds in the NHS system has declined significantly over the last 10 years.
But the King’s Fund warns that the number of hospital beds could destabilise services that were already “stretched to their limits” after what was a particularly turbulent winter.
The think tank also asserts that community services are struggling to cope with the existing level of workload.
Despite the efforts of sustainability and transformation plans in 44 NHS areas, it is clear that the health service continues to haemorrhage money.
With the target of a £590 million deficit certain to be missed in the existing fiscal year, there is now pressure on the healthcare system to undergo radical changes.
According to the King’s Fund this could well include hospital closures and even cuts to specialist services such as Accident and Emergency.
Commenting on the issue, King’s Fund Chief Executive, Chris Ham suggested that difficult decisions will need to be made in order to preserve the NHS in its existing form.
“We think it is necessary to do because if you’re not willing to do go through that process and support plans of this kind, essentially you are colluding as politicians in the continuation of unsafe services. So politicians need to step up to the plate and be brave. There have been examples of consultations in the past which haven’t been well-founded, but where the evidence is clear, that’s where Government and local politicians need to do their job.”
An NHS England spokeswoman welcomed the emphasis on sustainability and transformation included in the King’s Fund report.
“The King’s Fund report rightly finds that STPs offer the best hope for the NHS to transform care for patients in a sustainable way. They will allow the NHS to take advantage of new technologies, adopt successful practice more widely, and make practical improvements in areas that we know matter most to patients.”
The spokeswoman also suggested that a joined-up approach to healthcare would be essential in the future.
“These proposals are all about putting collaboration at the heart of our care system, with health and local government working more closely together than at any time since the NHS was created. Everyone in the NHS wants help to ensure we can all get excellent care whenever we need it.”
Several regions have already indicated their intention is to reduce services.
Derbyshire plans to remove 400 acute hospital beds, Herefordshire and Worcestershire has also announced similar plans, while Cambridgeshire and Peterborough will centrelise orthopaedics, stroke, maternity and paediatric services.