Sustainability and Transformation Plans – kill or cure for the NHS? – Colin Leys

Local NHS areas have til June to try and submit convincing plans to dramatically improve healthcare whilst saving large sums of cash. But the decision making is secretive and dysfunctional.

Predictions that the NHS is facing disaster have been issued so often that people no longer pay much attention. This time there is unanimity. Even normally government-friendly experts are in agreement, and for good reasons.

Since 2010 the NHS budget has been almost static, while the UK population has increased by two and a half million and is predicted to grow by 440,000 a year over the next ten years, with a growing proportion living longer and having more long-term illnesses. So it is no surprise that NHS hospitals in England look likely to have overspent their 2015-16 budgets by £2.5bn and that even so care quality is now seriously declining.

There is also an acute shortage of GPs (3), CCGs are announcing cuts in the range of treatments they will pay for , waiting times for treatments, including for cancer, are rising, hospital wards are understaffed, beds are also unavailable because too many are occupied by patients who can’t be discharged because of cuts to social care provision. And Monitor has told seriously overspent trusts to ‘reduce their headcount’.

The Kings Fund normally gives cautious support to government policy but on 7 April its Chief Executive, Chris Ham, finally broke with precedent and in effect told the government it was in denial in maintaining that services can be maintained and even improved when funding per patient is already too low and is planned to drop fairly rapidly over the next five years:

NHS leaders have never felt this target was credible and are now wondering when the emperor will be seen to have no clothes. Many feel as if they are living in a parallel universe in which they are striving to sustain existing services in conditions of adversity while politicians promise improvements in care that cannot be delivered with available resources.

Full article by Colin Leys at OurNHS OpenDemocracy 19 May 2016