A perfect storm: an impossible climate for NHS providers’ finances?

The NHS in England is currently halfway through the most austere decade in its history. In the 2015 comprehensive spending review, the government committed to additional real terms (adjusted for inflation) funding for health of £4.5bn by 2020/21.* This means that NHS funding in England will have risen by an average of 0.9% per year in real terms between 2009/10 and 2020/21. This is well below the average real terms increase of 3.7% per year since its creation in 1948, and a far cry from an average increase of 8.6% per year between 2001/02 and 2004/05. It will be the lowest ever rate of funding growth over a 10-year period.

Pressures on NHS providers grow by around 4% every year, due to a growing and aging population as well as rising costs, expectations and prevalence of long-term conditions. At the levels of funding provided, the NHS is struggling to meet these demands and cost pressures.

Funding for public provision for adult social care fell in real terms by an average of 2.2% per year between 2009/10 and 2014/15, leading to a 25% reduction in the number of people receiving publicly funded social care. It is hard to identify the additional burden this has placed on NHS services, but due to the strong interdependency between health and social care services, it is likely to have had an impact on the demand for, and cost of providing services. Following the comprehensive spending review in 2015, public funding for adult social care is planned to rise by an average of 0.6% per year in real terms between 2015/16 and 2019/20. This increase in funding is welcome, but still below the projected rate of increase for demand pressures of 4% per year. It is therefore likely that the level of unmet need for adult social care will rise in the near future.

See the report at The Health Foundation.