in response to today’s report from the NHS Confederation
on the financial prospects for the NHS, the King’s Fund’s
chief executive Niall Dickson warned the NHS faces cuts.
He said: 'After a decade of unprecedented spending, the
NHS could face drastic cuts after 2011. This report backs
up our analysis which shows that the prospects for the NHS
after 2011 will be severe unless the service responds now
by improving efficiency and reforming the way care is delivered.
‘Our analysis shows the NHS will probably have to
operate under these much harsher financial conditions up
to 2017 - yet at the same time more older people, more technology
and higher expectations will create more demand for health
care. We do have a window of opportunity - just under two
years when budgets still look relatively generous and the
service can prepare for the lean years ahead.
‘In practical terms that means every NHS organisation
should be embarking on a rigorous programme of cost control,
and every organisation should be working with others to
redesign services to improve quality and save money. The
two are not necessarily incompatible."
But, what is also required is political courage. "We
do not need politicians boasting that they will spend more
than the other lot when they all know perfectly well that
no matter who is in power the next few years will be about
managing with less.
"This is not the time for reassurance - it is a time
for difficult messages and support for doctors, nurses and
managers who are prepared to reshape services at local level.
‘That will mean driving efficiency throughout the
system while focussing on the quality of care; concentrating
some specialist services in fewer hospitals; moving other
services into the community and learning to manage patients
better to avoid unnecessary admissions and unnecessarily
long stays in hospital.
The alternative is to shy away from this agenda, pretend
it will all be fine, and risk throwing away the significant
advances that have been made in recent years.’