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05.06.17

NHS needs ‘30-year forward view’ or risks sleepwalking into uncertain future

The NHS needs to move towards a 30-year forward view to have any chance of being fiscally sustainable in the future, a group of influential health finance managers has stated.

Mark Orchard, president of the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA), criticised the “perpetual cyclical challenge for health and social care” that resulted from successive governments only having a five-year view for the health service.

While the HFMA boss admitted that strategies such as NHS England’s FYFV were welcome, he argued that foundations needed to be laid now for the NHS’s centenary celebration in 2048, or risk “sleepwalking” into an uncertain future.

The HFMA’s statement also comes after a House of Lords Health Committee report in April called on the government to set up an independent Office for Health and Care Sustainability to ensure that policies took the next 15 to 20 years into account, rather than the tenure of one government.

“Beyond this election, public choices may need to be made as part of a 30-year forward view and that is why the UK would benefit from an independent cross-party review of the future of NHS and social care,” Orchard stated.

“Responding to warnings about mounting pressures, each manifesto pledges more funding for the NHS up to 2022,” the HFMA president went on to say. “But nobody is having a meaningful public debate on how we might take steps to ensure that the NHS remains fit for the next generation and the generation beyond that.”

Orchard added that the problems the NHS faced was not just about real-terms funding failing to keep up with demand, or the difficulty trusts find carving out future efficiencies.

“The challenge lies in the assumption that alongside this we will sustain the current NHS ‘offer’ when official demographic estimates suggest a doubling of the number of us living over 80 years of age and a six-fold increase in the number of centenarians,” he stated.

Orchard concluded by suggesting a set of 10 conditions that should be consulted on with the public to drive future sustainability. Some of these conditions include realistic workforce planning, creating a single national IT dataset for public health and care records, having a relentless waste avoidance drive and exploring devolution of the NHS and social care to a state sponsored non-governmental body. The other conditions can be found here.

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