The Sustainability and Transformation Plans have divided the NHS in England into 44 local areas, and each has been told to cut services as part of a nationwide ‘financial reset’. But what’s actually going on, and how much of the government’s reasoning is just spin? NHAspace brings you a handy myth-busting guide.
1 – NHS Trusts aren’t overspending
The narrative of STPs is that our hospitals are in debt due to overspending. That would be true if the government had matched the NHS budget to the actual healthcare needs of our country, but they haven’t.
The cost of healthcare increases by 4% each year. In the UK, this is referred to as ‘NHS inflation’. If NHS funding doesn’t keep pace with this inflation, then services have to be cut or closed.
David Nicholson and Simon Stevens have both used their time as NHS England CEO to implement austerity measures, leading to a cumulative shortfall in funding of at least £35bn per year by 2020:
|Year||Increase Needed||Actual Increase||Shortfall|
The NHS is underfunded, and is actually spending less than it should on healthcare. That’s quite the opposite of an ‘overspend’!
2 – The NHS isn’t unaffordable
Pundits love to tell us about the new challenges facing the NHS, claiming that we now cannot afford universal healthcare. We are told that hospitals are overspending and that they are in debt.
In fact, the NHS is extremely affordable. Here’s a list of healthcare spending in several westernised countries in 2014:
|Country||Per person ($)||% of GDP|
As the table shows, the UK could easily choose to dedicate an extra percent of its GDP to healthcare, providing the NHS with the funds needed to sustain a modern health service.
3 – Hospitals aren’t overstaffed
The ‘financial reset’ planned for the NHS includes a limit on staff recruitment, the implication being that hospitals need to cut back on excessive hiring of permanent staff. Considering the billions spent on hiring agency staff to fill rota gaps, this is certainly not true.
The underlying issue here is safety. Following the Francis Report into the Mid Staffs scandal, hospital managers decided that they would rather exceed their budgets and hire more staff, than be guilty of manslaughter. Fed up with being ignored, the DoH is now coming down on managers with an iron fist. Anyone caught protecting staffing levels by overspending will be subject to a ‘failure regime’.
4 – This Isn’t About Centralisation
Centralisation of specialised services can improve outcomes for patients with specific illnesses. But trauma, cardiac and stroke services have already become centralised. For many other illnesses, and for maternity and step-down care, it’s important to have smaller District General Hospitals (DGHs) and Community Hospitals. These provide care closer to home and take the pressure off the big, specialised centres.
So don’t be fooled. Closing A&Es and taking services away from local hospitals isn’t centralisation. It’s un-evidenced vandalism in the name of cost savings.
5 – This Is About Creating A Two Tier System
The level of cuts and closures required by the STPs is such that the NHS will become unable to provide a universal service. Rationing will increase, so that most routine procedures will be refused funding. Once various DGHs have closed, the hospitals still standing will struggle with their increased catchment areas and will be forced to provide essentials only.
This was already envisaged by Simon Stevens, who is keen to separate emergency care from routine care. Emergencies will be handled in NHS hospitals, whilst the routine work will be handled by the private sector. Patients wishing to undergo non-essential procedures will find themselves needing to pay to have their cataracts and hernias treated or their tonsils removed.
This post was originally posted on the NHAParty Website.
Labour calls for £500m emergency ‘winter bailout fund’ for NHS
Labour will call for the government to commit a £500m “winter bailout fund” for the NHS over the coming months.
Jonathan Ashworth, the Shadow Health Secretary, says the money is needed to increase capacity in struggling hospitals and pay for extra staff as the NHS faces the worst winter on record.
He also said it was Labour’s “ambition” to return NHS funding increases to the same level as during the 1997-2010 Labour governments.
Mr Ashworth claims that Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, and Theresa May have failed to provide an adequate plan to how the NHS is preparing, for what is expected to be, the worst winter on record for the health and social care service.
Janet Davies, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the RCN, said:
“Any bailout money this winter should be used to bolster frontline staff and help ensure safe patient care. Having the right number of nurses is key to treating people effectively and safely.
“Yet too many hospitals are chronically short of nursing staff. As demand increases over the winter months, it’s patients who will pay the price unless something is done.
“Properly funding the NHS is a political choice – it should not reach the stage where a last-minute bailout is required to keep people safe.”
The Shadow Health Secretary will use a speech to the Labour party conference today to call for the extra funding.
£13 million funding to help hospital A&Es prepare for winter
The Department of Health has announced 19 hospitals in England will benefit from extra funding for emergency care over winter.
Following a plea for funding from NHS Providers, the association that represents healthcare trusts, the Department of Health (DoH) has announced it will provide additional funding to nineteen NHS hospitals in England.
The 19 hospitals across England will be given a cash injection of over £13 million for emergency care, in the latest wave of winter funding announced today by Health Minister Philip Dunne.
Around £13 million has been awarded to improve patient flow through A&E, ensuring departments are prepared for busy times during winter. The additional funding brings the total given to hospitals since April to over £90 million, part of the dedicated funding announced in the Spring Budget.
Minister of State for Health Philip Dunne said:
“Thanks to the hard work and dedication of staff, the NHS has put in place strong plans ahead of winter – ensuring patients continue to receive safe and efficient care as demand rises over the coming months.
This funding will give more hospitals the boost they need to streamline patient flow in A&E, freeing up A&Es to care for the sickest patients and helping make sure all patients get the right treatment in the right place as quickly as possible”.
The funding will be used to help hospitals finalise preparations ahead of winter, particularly to handle the large volumes of patients attending A&E. By investing in the necessary equipment or infrastructure, hospitals will be able to target improvements to patient flow and relieve pressure on A&E.
The funding supports NHS England’s wider plans to improve A&E performance in England by 2018. In particular, it will help hospitals hit the target of admitting, transferring or discharging 95% of patients within 4 hours.
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