Is the NHS crisis of our own making?
Despite numerous new funding pledges in recent years, a welcome change from years of austerity, it remains the consensus that the new money is not enough. After almost a decade of underfunding, the NHS continues to struggle and the money promised to it does not allow for preparations for the future. The unprecedented coronavirus pandemic in 2020 has only thrown up more problems that will require a comprehensive funding plan going forward.
The funding announcement in Autumn 2018 from the Prime Minister promised £20bn extra for the NHS over the next 5 years. Although this was a welcome change from the 7 year period of austerity that the NHS has endured, the deal is unlikely to be enough to keep up with rising demands, let alone raise standards. Boris Johnson announced further money in August and September 2019, however it turned out that not all of this was actually new money.
Demand for the NHS is rising due to population changes and a higher numbers of patients with chronic and multiple conditions, something which has been predicted for many years. Add to this the impact of deep cuts in social care budgets and the lack of a workforce strategy and the evidence points to the NHS crisis being very much of our own making.
- The NHS has experienced a decade of underfunding since 2010, despite cash boosts in 2018 and 2019. Between 2009-2019 the NHS budgets rose on average just 1.4% per year, compared to 3.7% average rises since the NHS was established.
- The whole NHS budget has not been protected and the result is cuts to frontline services, especially in public health.
- Nearly half of staff say underfunding stops them doing their job properly - many say its the worst situation they have seen.
- There is a crisis in the recruitment of staff across the NHS - including too few doctors, midwives, paramedics and nurses.
- Per head the government spends less on the NHS than many other comparable countries.
- We have less beds and doctors per head than many comparable countries.
- Large cuts to social care and mental health have added huge pressure on the NHS as there are not enough services outside of hospital.
What’s been happening?
- The government has demanded big efficiency savings which many providers have found unachievable and have driven up their deficits.
- NHS debts are being made the priority, the local plans (STPs) developed from 2016 onwards lack the necessary investment leading to cuts in services across the country, including hospital and A&E closures.
- Private sector companies like Virgin continue to win big contracts to run NHS services for profit.
- Public funds are being diverted away from patients and wasted on PFI and tendering.
- Rationing is increasing and waiting lists are rising
- The temporary closure of services, such as maternity units and A&E departments, is now widespread.