A raft of top medics have written a letter to The Guardian newspaper condemning the policy of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, toward the National Health Service.
The letter suggests that Osborne’s “front-loaded NHS funds” do not represent extra money, but is in fact merely a forwarding of funds already promised by the Parliament to the NHS.
Medics who have signed the letter point out the statistic that has been reported by the Healthcare Times on numerous occasions previously; namely that the NHS requires an additional £30 billion of funding by 2021.
Yet the Chancellor of the Exchequer has only committed an additional £10 billion at the time of writing, basing efforts to address the funding gap on completely unrealistic expectations of £20 billion of efficiency savings.
According to the signees of this particular letter “this is a frighteningly unrealistic expectation for a health system already among the world’s most efficient. Efficiency savings are fast becoming a euphemism for funding cuts.”
The prospect of funding such incredibly high year-on-year efficiency savings is, at best, incredibly logistically unlikely, and at worst potentially disastrous for the health service.
NHS trusts will be expected to push through a deficit of £2.2 billion this year to avoid compromising patient care through cuts.
The medics signing this open letter are of the belief that it is completely unsafe to expect the same scale of savings between now and the end of the decade.
Indeed, independent experts who have commented on the subject have all agreed that the rapid expansion of non-emergency seven-day services will need extra staff and funding, far from it being feasible to cut everyday expenditure.
Furthermore, NHS England CEO Simon Stevens has specifically said seven-day services would need to be gradually introduced, with “careful and disciplined phasing-in”.
Yet the government has already stated its intention to switch to a so-called seven-day culture in the NHS in the foreseeable future.
The letter notes that no additional funds for this proposal have appeared at the time of writing, indicating that further cuts will be required in order to provide something that the writers of the letter claim is little demanded by the public.
It appears that public health, social care and nursing student grants will all be caught in the near future, as Osborne continues to justify his fiscal plan for the health service.
Finally, the letter notes that the Health Secretary has already promised to work with a cross-party political consensus, along with professionals in the NHS, in order to have an open discussion about the future funding of the health service.
The signees conclude: “As NHS staff and students, we urge him to maintain the spirit of this promise, in open discussion with the professions and other political parties. The safety of the public deserves nothing less.”
The letter was signed by over 75 healthcare professionals.