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28.02.17

STPs ‘nowhere near concrete’ solution to prevent NHS deterioration

Findings from a major analysis of government spending on public services has described STPs as “nowhere near the concrete plans” needed to prevent recurring overspending and service deterioration in the NHS.

The report, published by influential bodies Institute for Government (IfG) and Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA), called on the government to show how STPs can deliver efficiencies to services “before the freeze on NHS funding built into the next two years’ plans really bites” – or find a new approach altogether.

In the review, the IfG and CIPFA looked into the pressures being placed on public services and concluded that hospitals and adult social care were being pushed to “breaking point” – finding that delays in transferring patients from hospitals into social care or home care had risen by 40% since 2014.

The report also recommended that the government should set up an “Office for Budget Responsibility for public spending” to scrutinise government spending and prevent “wishful thinking” leading to unrealistic budgets being set in Whitehall.

It also called on the chancellor to address key areas in public spending in the upcoming Spring Budget – in particular adult social care and, most importantly, hospitals which are on the brink of collapse.

The findings warned that even though hospital funding had grown, it still is not keeping up with the enourmous demand that the NHS is having to deal with. In 2013, for example, patients began routinely waiting longer for critical treatments such as in A&E or cancer wards.

Julian McCrae, IfG deputy editor, said: “As we’ve seen with prisons, social care and now potentially hospitals, the government risks getting into a cycle of crisis, cash, repeat.

“This report is not a call for more money. It is a call for better financial planning and reforms that are robust enough to survive public scrutiny.

“It is fundamental to increasing the effectiveness of these public services that ministers, officials and the public know how well government is performing, and use this information to guide decisions.”

Rob Whiteman, CIPFA chief executive, added that those working to deliver public sector services are up against stretched resources, meaning it is crucial “that we make the best possible use of the funds available”.

“This means having a thorough understanding of how organisations are run and services are provided, using this information to think strategically and creatively about improving policy decision making, which will ultimately improve service delivery,” he concluded.

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