NHS finance directors fear standards of care will fall
40% of NHS finance directors believe care will worsen over the next few years a survey by the King’s Fund found. Two fifths of NHS finance directors expect quality of patient care to “worsen over the next few years” and most believe the government’s target of £20 billion in savings will not materialise, a survey by a leading thinktank reveals.
The King’s Fund quarterly survey of NHS finances How is the NHS performing? September 2012 shows growing fears that the quality of NHS care may suffer as “financial pressures bite” from next year.
The results of what the think tank describes as a “representative survey” of 45 finance directors in the health service show that, while most are confident of making the £5 billion in savings this year, the majority think the NHS will not be able to make productivity gains of this magnitude every year until 2015.
Instead, next year is seen as a “turning point” for the health service, with patients feeling the effects of the cuts.
An analysis of accident and emergency waiting times for the first three months of the current financial year highlights growing pressure in emergency care.
The King’s Fund points out that although the proportion of patients spending more than four hours in A&E fell compared with the two previous quarters – as would be expected at this time of year – it is at its highest level for this quarter since 2004-05.
“The national figures also mask variation in local performance, with 35 hospitals breaching the government’s target that no more than 5% of patients should spend longer than four hours in A&E,” says the report.
John Appleby, chief economist at the King’s Fund, said next year would be harder, in part because the pay freeze for NHS staff will be lifted – adding half a billion pounds in costs to NHS budgets.
“The NHS continues to perform well in the second year of the productivity challenge,” Appleby said. “But there are signs that future years will be harder.
“The end of the public sector pay freeze next April may add to financial pressures and increase the strain on services. The difficulty for local providers will be finding ways to absorb these costs without compromising the quality of care for patients.”
Appleby pointed out that, in addition, there seemed to be an “emerging upward trend” in the proportion of patients waiting more than four hours but less than 12 to be admitted to hospital via emergency wards – so-called trolley waits. This was now 3% of patients – roughly one percentage point higher than in 2010.
Tags: healthcare, National Health Service, NHS, nhs cash shortages, nhs cutbacks, red tape