Health Service Focus


Getting our priorities right: a step towards a longer-term view

Source: NHE May/Jun 17

Paul Briddock, director of policy at the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA), comments on the recent Lords Select Committee report on the long-term sustainability of the NHS.

The recent Lords Select Committee report on the long-term sustainability of the NHS addressed concerns about the ‘short-sighted’ views from various governments in failing to plan effectively for the long-term future of the health service and adult social care. Covering both current challenges and the best long-term direction for the health system, the report echoes the fears finance directors have expressed for some time. Above all, those working in the NHS are adamant that long-term goals must take priority.  

With two years passed, we are almost halfway through the Five Year Forward View (FYFV). Despite this, some are concerned that there remains no solid structure or plan for what will happen once the five years are up. The report also displayed some of the same challenges we have experienced for a while, with long-term funding a key concern and the research revealing that 55% of people expect the NHS to deteriorate as confirmation of this. It is integral that we regain confidence from our public by addressing this issue, and tackling it soon. The report also highlighted the lack of an independent body overseeing the progress made in NHS transformation and sustainability across a longer-term period. 

Yet, short-term funding problems place imminent pressure on the system; this is undeniable and should not be ignored. It is crucial, however, that placing a spotlight on the short term does not lead to the side-tracking of long-term goals, as we are currently at risk of. Our recent HFMA NHS Financial Temperature Check revealed that 43% of finance directors do not believe that the NHS could continue to deliver the current levels of quality within the levels of increased funding currently promised. We support the committee’s recognition that an honest debate is required about future NHS funding, and we back calls for longer-term NHS and social care planning. 

This is not, however, a challenge solely for central government and system leaders. Local health economies need to rise to the challenge within their sustainability and transformation plans, identifying key issues to be addressed over a realistic and longer time period. Crucially, they must look beyond the implications for their individual organisations to work collaboratively towards a bigger picture. 

The Lords Select Committee report reflects an overarching consensus around the issues and what needs to change with the narrative for the NHS in its current form. We must plan beyond 2020. Failure to do this is counterproductive, leaves the public in a state of the unknown and may actually place any progress made through the FYFV at risk.



Image: © Peter Byrne


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