NHS Confederation chief executive Mike Farrar yesterday launched an attack on NHS hospitals, saying that at least 25 per cent of hospital patients should not be in hospital at all.
The NHS bosses’ leader said that at least one in four patients would be better off being cared for in the community.
Setting out the ‘top issues for 2012’, in his New Year’s message, Farrar said the NHS must convince people to let go of the ‘outdated hospital-or-bust model of care’ and shift resources into community-based services, early intervention and self care.
Farrar claimed that NHS leaders believe that at least 25 per cent of patients in hospital beds could be looked after at home.
He added that political and NHS leaders need to be ‘honest about the issues, bold about the solutions and decisive in taking action’.
A British Medical Association (BMA) spokesperson warned: ‘It is essential that enough resources are in place to treat patients at home when this is appropriate.
‘If patients do not need to be in hospital, there needs to be sufficient care available to treat them effectively at home.’
Farrar said that the NHS is already trying to make £20 billion worth of ‘efficiencies’ by 2015 in order to cope with a flat budget and rising demand.
He added: ‘Care would be better for frail patients who would have fewer crises, shorter hospital stays when they need them, and more time in the comfort and safety of their homes. . . .
‘There would be major potential to deliver better value for money and keep the NHS on a sustainable footing. We all know that quality of care will fall victim to a financial crisis.’
Speaking in a personal capacity, BMA Council member Anna Athow said: ‘This is nonsense.
‘The £20bn “efficiencies” are cuts, according to the McKinsey plan 2009.
‘Every penny being cut from frontline patient care is going straight back to private companies and the new restructuring system.
‘There is no need for these cuts at all.
‘Of course when patients get older they need more hospital care. Successive governments have closed many of our cottage and community hospitals.
‘Those who call for mass acute NHS hospital closures are the very people who are calling for NHS privatisation.
‘Both the cuts and the Health and Social Care Bill have to be defeated.
‘The unions need to organise joint industrial action urgently to maintain and restore our publicly provided NHS.’
A Unison spokeswoman told News Line: ‘At a time when the NHS is being starved of funds, there is not just the resources out there in the community to provide the kind of care he is talking about.
‘We’ve elderly people facing their home care visits privatised and cut to ten-minute slots. We don’t want to see that kind of care on the cheap in the NHS.
‘Whatever happens, we will always need hospitals providing emergency and specialist treatment you can’t get in the community.
‘The direction the government is taking the NHS is privatisation. It’s taking the NHS completely the wrong way.
‘There is a danger people would have no care in the community.’