NHS Finance

18.11.16

Providers demand ‘targeted’ GP and social care funding in Autumn Statement

Extra funding for GPs and social care are vital for the NHS to have any chance of restoring financial balance, NHS Providers has said.

Quarter figures announced by NHS Improvement today showed that 142 trusts are still in deficit, with the majority of trusts not meeting their financial targets. There has also been a 34.8% increase in delayed transfer of care, costing the NHS up to £820m a year.

NHS Providers has written a six-point Autumn Statement submission to the Treasury urging the chancellor to deliver extra funding beyond hospitals and into primary and social care, which they believe will help ease the burden on A&E and ambulance services.

The organisation’s chief executive, Chris Hopson, explained that trusts are working as hard as they can to improve patient care, but urgently need targeted investment.

“There is now a clear gap between what the NHS is being asked to deliver and the funding available. NHS trusts are working flat out to develop new and better ways of delivering patient care, but they urgently need targeted extra investment in the areas of greatest need,” Hopson said.

“Investing in general practice and social care, as well as stopping the raids on capital spending to ensure our hospitals and other buildings are fit for purpose must be an urgent priority.

“This would help GPs and care services to ease the rising pressure on hospital, ambulance, community and mental health trusts, which in turn would improve the quality of care people receive.

“The NHS has shown that with the right support it can transform services and deliver efficiency savings, so we believe these measures would produce a strong and immediate return on investment for the Treasury.”

The submission argued for targeting funding at supporting GPs in order to plug capacity gaps and reduce the number of referrals. It also proposed bringing forward planned investment in social care through the Better Care Fund; giving councils the freedoms to hike the social care precept so that they can invest more heavily in social care services; and investment to help trusts achieve efficiency savings now that the “easier savings” have been realised. 

The proposals made by NHS Providers make effort to emphasise the difference that measures to improve primary care, such as increasing investments in capital infrastructure, can have on the acute sector. It suggested that any spending commitments should be agreed with local trusts so that the funding is allocated appropriately to the areas of the largest need.

However, Hopson stated that, as a result of the current financial trends facing the NHS, there is an “urgent need” for the government to look again at what the health service is able to deliver during this Parliament and beyond.

“The investment must be accompanied by a rethink of plans for this Parliament,” he said. “Providers will do all they can to improve productivity, realise efficiencies and move to new ways of providing care. But over the next three years demand and cost will rise by at least 4% a year whilst real terms health funding per head is flat or actually reduces.

“We therefore have to decide what the NHS should prioritise. The NHS simply cannot do all that it is currently doing and is being asked to do in future on these funding levels.”

Danger of short-term decisions

NHS Providers argued in its submission that after 2020, the NHS will face increasing demographic pressures as the population ages. The submission therefore urged caution in making short-term decisions without considering their future impact, and called for an official review to enable providers to plan accordingly.

“The massive extra demographic pressures the NHS faces after 2020 provide the service with an existential challenge,” said the submission. “We are in danger of making short-term decisions – for example reducing bed capacity – without a full understanding of this mid to long term context.

“The submission therefore calls for an officially supported analysis of the nation’s likely longer-term health and care needs and how these will be met and funded so we can ensure we make the right short term decisions.”

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