NHS reforms


Dixon: NHS performance ‘middling’ in Europe due to ‘bleedin’ obvious’ lack of funding

The NHS performance is “middling” in comparison to other Western European countries, the chief executive of a leading independent health charity has said.

Addressing the inaugural annual NHS Confederation lecture in London yesterday, Dr Jennifer Dixon, head of the Health Foundation, pointed to a “bleedin’ obvious” lack of funding in the NHS that puts the UK behind the European frontrunners in innovative and high-quality healthcare.

“Investment in healthcare clearly produces better health,” Dixon continued. “Better health has economic benefits. So paying for health is not a drain on the public purse you can afford only when the economy picks up.”

The health chief noted that the population is in high demand of more health care, and claimed there is a strong argument to raise taxes to give it to them – a move that the majority of the UK public agree with.

The speaker compared the UK’s investment in the health service to that of Germany’s: if they UK had spent at the rate of Germany since 2000, it would have invested an extra £620b in healthcare – around four times the current spend.

“And that’s partly why, when you ask German hospital CEOs about winter pressures, they don’t turn a hair. They just have more: beds, doctors, nurses, kit… you name it. And with €20-30bn extra a year we might be in the same position,” Dixon argued.

Over the turn of the year, the NHS faced its most difficult winter to date in coping with demand for beds and resources. The Health Foundation boss claimed that increasing intervention and regulation by government without sufficient checks and balances mean the UK is particularly prone to “policy disasters,” adding that “simply poking, controlling and to an extent reshaping” NHS administrative structures won’t allow the health service to meet these increasing peaks in demand at wintertime.

In improving the health service for the future, Dixon called upon making the NHS a “tranquil zone,” removing confrontation between political parties, trusts, and staff members, invest in the service by 3-4% per annum, and to take more leadership to build trust in the use of patient-level data for collective benefit that is not monetised into profit.

She added: “All that is a big agenda for leaders in the NHS, and patients. But we have plenty of talent, will and values to do it.

“I believe we are genuinely at an inflexion point now. The transmission mechanism for improvement will be far more through collaborating networks, and communities.”

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said of her speech: “We agree with the Health Foundation that more funding is needed and would argue that any long-term funding settlement must bring health and care together and move away from short-term cash injections that do not enable transformation.

“We are starting to see signs of movement from government and politicians more widely on a challenge we have long argued is the most pressing domestic issue of our age. We also recognise the importance of clarity around what health and care services should provide in return for extra investment.”


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