Current financial pressures are worst ever, say NHS chiefs

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: (Published 03 June 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f3616
  1. Matthew Limb
  1. 1London

The leaders of NHS organisations in England have voiced grave warnings about how the build up of financial pressures is affecting the care of patients.

Most fear that services will become “unsustainable” unless more is done to further integrate healthcare and social care, said the NHS Confederation, the membership body for organisations that commission and provide NHS services.

The confederation’s survey of chairs and chief executives of 185 organisations providing NHS services was published on 3 June.1

More than 60% of the respondents said that they faced “serious” financial pressures, and 83% believed that pressure on their organisations would increase over the next 12 months.

Half of the respondents said that financial pressures have affected waiting times and access to care in the past 12 months, and 70% believed that waiting times and access would be affected in the next 12 months.

More than a fifth of NHS bosses regarded current financial pressures as the “worst they have ever experienced.”

The survey was carried out for the confederation by the Picker Institute between April and May 2013.

The NHS Confederation’s chief executive, Mike Farrar, said, “In the short term the NHS is holding it together. But the sticking plasters on the creaking parts of the system will only last so long. We are already seeing the pressures on our A&Es [accident and emergency departments] bubbling over.”

Forty per cent of the survey respondents thought that quality of care would improve over the next 12 months, and three quarters were confident that they would meet their efficiency savings targets over the period. But 93% said that only “slight progress” or “no progress” was being made to integrate care. Some two thirds of respondents said that this lack of integration would lead to services becoming unsustainable.

The NHS Confederation said that the findings also showed that NHS chief executives and chairs recognised the need to change the culture of the health service to rebuild public confidence in the wake of the Francis inquiry into Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.2

Farrar said that there were signs for optimism, despite the survey painting “some very worrying pictures.” He said, “Effective long term change will require NHS leaders, with the support of the public and politicians, to take up the gauntlet and see through some radical changes to the way we deliver care.”


Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f3616


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