NHS services in England are now, facing head on, a ‘mission impossible’ to meet the standards required by the government, the NHS ‘Providers’ health bosses who run hospital, mental health and ambulance trusts have warned.
NHS Providers predict its members, which account for nearly two-thirds of health spending, will get £89.1bn in 2017-18 – that is 2.6% more than they got this year, but crucially just half of the 5.2% demand is expected to grow by.
Chief executive, Chris Hopson, said it was time for the government to ‘sit up and listen’. He added that the goals for next year – to get back to hitting the waiting time targets for A&E and hospital operations, while balancing the budget – were a ‘mission impossible’.
He added: ‘NHS trusts will strain every sinew to deliver the commitments made for the health service. But we now have a body of evidence showing that, with resources available, the NHS can no longer deliver what the NHS constitution requires of it… We fear that patient safety is increasingly at risk.’
The analysis carried out by NHS Providers is truly shocking as far as the quality of health care that the government is seeking to impose on the population. The ‘providers’ predict that the numbers waiting in A&E longer than the four-hour target will increase by 40% next year to 1.8m, while the numbers waiting beyond the 18-week target for routine treatments, such as knee and hip operations, will go up by 150% to around 100,000.
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said that many trusts believe they ‘can’t deliver’ on government demands for the next financial year beginning with next month. He stressed that an analysis has found an ‘unbridgeable gap’ between the targets and the funding that is available, with frontline funding increases being lower than in previous years at 1.3%.
Combined with a demand to rein in ‘slipping’ waiting time targets for accident and emergency and routine operations and a forecast rise in demand for services, Hopson said: ‘Take all this together and it’s mission impossible. The numbers don’t add up.’
The NHS faced huge pressure over the winter, with A&E waiting times of four hours and more reaching record levels, amid fears of a staffing crisis. Hopson estimates trusts would need £2.5 billion more to turn performance around within a year.
Hopson said: ‘NHS trust leaders want to meet NHS standards, achieve financial balance and improve their performance. But you get what you pay for. Trusts can only deliver if they get the appropriate funding and support. Without these, difficult choices are required.
‘If we are to maximise the use of NHS resources, plan properly, treat staff fairly and be straight with the public… Trusts won’t be able to recover the A&E and elective surgery targets across the whole year – the best we can hope for is turning the current performance decline into an improvement.’
Meanwhile, a just-completed Sunday Mirror/Nursing Standard survey shows that fewer than one in ten NHS nurses feel they can provide safe levels of patient care, with 83% of nurses stating that they felt staffing levels were not safe. The poll of more than 3,000 nurses also found 81% thought levels of care were worse than five years ago. Just 8% reported that they felt they ‘always’ had time to deliver safe care to patients, while 42% answered ‘most of the time’, 45% said ‘sometimes’ and 4% responded that they felt they ‘never’ have the time to provide a safe service.
However, up and down the country NHS hospital workers and NHS hospital users are marching and picketing, demanding an end to NHS cuts and closures and that there be a proper financing to restore the numbers of beds that have been cut and to train new staff to do the jobs required – they are insisting that no NHS facilities will be allowed to close.
There is only one way to win these demands. This is that the trade unions and the TUC must organise occupations to prevent a single NHS facility from closing. They must be kept open and fully functioning.
Trade union organised occupations will mobilise millions for a general strike to defend the NHS by bringing down the Tories. The founding of the NHS was a socialist measure. It can continue only under a workers’ government that will finance it by nationalising the banks and the drugs industry. This is what has to be done!