‘We must level with public’ on scale of NHS challenges, warn NHS Providers

Ministers and health leaders must “level with the public” about the true scale of the severe challenges facing the health service or public commitment to the NHS “is on the line,” a stark new report from NHS Providers has warned.

In a survey from NHS Providers, over 90% of NHS trust leaders said they were worried about the absence of a frank and open national conversation about the severe pressures currently facing the NHS.

Chief executive of the NHS Providers Chris Hopson, warned that the health service is facing a “triple whammy” of rising demand, workforce shortages and a deep funding squeeze.

“Unless we level with the public about how long it will take to recover from where we are and how quickly we can deliver the NHS long term plan, public commitment to the NHS is on the line.”

The report, released ahead of the NHS Providers annual conference, points to 100,000 staffing vacancies in the NHS at the moment, a lack of action around social care, a maintenance backlog worth £6bn and an underlying £4bn provider sector financial deficit.

The survey revealed that less than a third (29%) of trust leaders are confident their trust currently has the right numbers, quality and mix of staff to deliver quality healthcare.

Around 77% were worried there is not enough investment in public health and prevention services in their local area, and 90% expressed concern about the lack of investment in social care.

Hopson said: “We need greater realism about how much the NHS can deliver, and how quickly, given where we currently are and the challenges we face.”

"It’s great that the new government has made the NHS its top domestic priority. Trusts have welcomed increases in funding compared with other public services and the ambitious plan for the next decade.

"But the NHS faces a triple whammy of rapidly rising demand and current performance levels are the worst in a decade. Trying to work NHS staff harder and harder is simply not sustainable.”

Hopson said that this report was the start of NHS leaders sending a clear signal that we need an honest, realistic and transparent view of the difficult choices and challenges that lie ahead.”

On top of greater realism about the scale of the challenges facing the NHS, the repot calls for a final, funded NHS workforce plan which addresses recruitment, training, culture and inclusion.

Other recommendations include a proper, multi-year capital settlement and sustainable funding for social care and public health, and greater reality on the level of quality standards the public should expect from the NHS.

Image credit -  Peter Summers/PA Wire/PA Images


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