NHS leaders in England say they have reached a ‘tipping point’ and cannot maintain standards for patients on the funding they are getting.
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said many hospital bosses wanted to ‘sound a warning bell’ to political leaders. It comes after latest figures showed record levels of delayed hospital discharges and patient waiting times. NHS Providers, the organisation that represents hospitals in England, says unless urgent funding is provided it will have to cut staff, bring in charges or introduce ‘draconian rationing’ of treatment.
It highlights that 80% of England’s acute hospitals are in financial deficit, compared with 5% three years ago – while missed A&E waiting time targets have risen from 10% to 90%. Writing in The Observer Hopson said that trusts would ‘do all they can to deliver efficiency savings and productivity improvements’ but ‘the NHS must make some quick, clear choices on what gives, however unpalatable these choices may be’.
His warning comes days before the Commons Health Select Committee will decide whether to launch a special inquiry into the state of the NHS in England and two months before the government announces its spending plans in the autumn statement.
In July more than 50 hospitals in England were given the go-ahead to miss key waiting time targets this year to help ease their financial problems. BMA member, Anna Athow, commented: ‘Only a few months ago Hopson called for the closure of another 50 District General Hospitals (DGHs).
‘Hopson is now calling for a big national debate in order to convince people that there is not enough money for the NHS and that patient charges or stopping or denying access to NHS services must be urgently instituted. What he cannot reveal is where the £115bn annual funding of NHS funding is going. Health campaigners estimate that up to a quarter of the budget is diverted out to private sector companies.
‘The fact is the Blair government pumped up NHS funding to European levels in 2000 to cover up the privatisation reforms they were bringing in. But in 2010, the privatisation agenda required crashing the NHS with cuts of £20bn in five years to destroy NHS facilities and staffing levels.
‘Then in 2015 the Cameron government continued with the Five Year Forward View plan of Simon Stevens, to axe another £22bn from the NHS by 2020, accompanied by a huge programme of imposing new American market models of care ready to be run by private companies for profit.
‘It is this colossal conspiracy by successive governments to crash and privatise the NHS which has brought the NHS to the brink of collapse, with unsafe care and a drastic lack of staff, staff who are now being attacked through new contract impositions.
‘This crash plan is coming unstuck because the treasury has run out of money. The public is now outraged by the new secret STP ( Sustainability and Transformation Plans) to cut and close thousands more patient beds and DGHs and carry out the most draconian funding cuts in NHS history.
‘The trade union and labour movement must expose these secret plans for what they are. The TUC has the responsibility to stop the NHS being privatised and destroyed. The strength of the whole working class is needed. Immediately this means contacting the junior doctors and the BMA and coordinating the health unions and all unions in a plan of general strike action to stop the imposition of cost-cutting staff contracts, and keep open all NHS services threatened with closure.
‘The aim must be to remove this government and get in a workers government committed to restore and renationalise the NHS and throw out the privateers.’