The heads of 10 organisations, including medical charities and professional bodies, have warned that Britain’s state-funded National Health Service (NHS) and social services in the UK are “at breaking point.” They will require an additional £30 billion ($48 billion) by 2020 to close their funding deficit.
Below is the text of the letter sent by The British Medical Association, The Royal College of Nursing, The Royal College of GPs, The Alzheimer’s Society, The Anthony Nolan Trust, The MS Society, The Royal National Institute of Blind People, The Teenage Cancer Trust, The Family Doctor Association and The Faculty of Public Health:
The NHS and our social care services are at breaking point and things cannot go on like this. An NHS deficit of £30 billion is predicted by 2020 — a funding black hole that must be filled.
While we welcome the fact that the NHS has risen to the top of the political agenda, and some new spending commitments have been made, we need a comprehensive, fully costed, long-term spending plan if an NHS true to its founding principles of universal healthcare, provided according to need not ability to pay, is secured for future generations.
It must also take into account the need for vital social care. This will also require a guarantee that the NHS will be protected from another top-down reorganization which is not in the best interests of patients, and distracts from the severe, long-term funding pressures facing the health service. The NHS, social services, health and care professionals and above all, the British people, deserve no less.
The letter will add to pressure on the political parties in Westminster as they attempt to prove their budgetary responsibility with pledges to cut spending in the next parliament. Although the Conservatives have committed to protecting NHS spending, while Labour leader Ed Miliband promised a spending boost of £3 billion a year, neither party has yet said anything about how the NHS will close its projected deficit by 2020 nor how they plan to reform the health service to address rising costs over the longer term.
In its latest quarterly survey of the NHS English health charity The King’s Trust found that “there is a distinct lack of optimism about the general state of the finances of local health economies over the next year, with around 85% of trust finance directors saying they were fairly or very pessimistic.” This built on the negative sentiment that has been building over the previous three surveys:
Yet critically even if the short-term problems are addressed, the challenges of longer term sustainability of healthcare spending will remain. Despite planning the “largest and most sustained [fiscal consolidation plan] of any major advanced economy” an ageing population will mean that, after a short-lived fall, spending on healthcare is likely to increase from 6.4% of GDP in 2018-2019 to 8.5% by 2063-2064, according to the government’s independent budget watchdog.
As The King’s Fund says in its review of the future of the NHS:
[There] seems little doubt that the pressure will be to spend more … There is a need therefore to understand both the consequences of higher spending and the options available to meet such spending pressures.
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