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NHS hundreds of millions of pounds short of funding to improve care

by Ozva Admin

NHS funding pledged by Jeremy Hunt is hundreds of millions of pounds short of what is required to improve care at the crisis-hit health service, experts have warned.

In his autumn statement, the chancellor pledged another 6.6 billion pounds, a figure he said NHS chief Amanda Pritchard had described as “sufficient”. But health leaders warn the money will only allow the NHS to avert disaster and will not be enough to meet new targets set for years to come.

The funding gap could be even larger, as the extra money would not cover the cost of giving inflation-linked pay increases to NHS staff.

The NHS is likely to remain in “crisis footing” for the foreseeable future, the Health Foundation said.

Nurses go on strike before Christmas after the government failed to grant a pay increase above inflation.

Stephen Rocks, economist at charity The Health Foundation, said the deal, which will increase the NHS budget by 2.9 percent, falls short of the 4.2 percent needed to reduce waiting lists, leaving the service hundreds of millions of pounds below what is needed

The NHS currently has a waiting list of 7.1 million for planned care, a number that will continue to rise, while those waiting on A&E for more than four hours hit a record in October, and ambulance response times too. once again increased in much of the country.

As well as cutting the waiting list for planned care, Treasury has set new priorities for the NHS in exchange for the funding deal, including halving ambulance response times, ensuring a two-week wait for GP appointments and improvements year on year. to be performed at A&E standby times.

Earlier this year, NHS England estimated it would need £6-7bn in 2023-24 to plug holes in its finances left by inflation and the cost of staff salaries.

Mr. Rocks said the independent That Health Foundation analysis showed the NHS would need a 3.6 percent increase in its budget to maintain standards of care and 4.2 percent to reduce its waiting list.

Thursday’s deal for the NHS is even less than what was offered in 2019, when it was awarded a 3.4 percent annual raise.

Rocks added: “I think there are a lot of new pressures. Activity and demand in some areas is certainly picking up, while some Covid-19 costs are proving persistent. The NHS has been set very high efficiency targets, which are higher than it has managed to meet in the past and higher than agreed in the NHS’s long-term plan.

“In particular, the pay is outstanding pressure. So, taking all of those things together, I think it would need very favorable headwinds to deliver on all the priorities within the NHS long-term plan and address the backlog of the electives.

“You probably need a degree of realism about what can be achieved with the funding that has been provided. It’s very challenging, you need a lot of things to fit, very high efficiency and low cost pressures. again, yes [staff] the salary increases significantly, that would change things”.

Health Foundation director Anita Charlesworth said Mr Hunt’s autumn statement was a “short-term relief”. But she added: “The reality is that the NHS will stay afloat at best as inflation bites and it faces mounting pressures from an aging, paying population, tackling backlog and ongoing Covid costs.”

“The NHS is likely to remain in a crisis situation” for the foreseeable future, he added.

According to Siva Anandaciva, chief analyst at the King’s Fund, the budget increase will only cover part of the health service’s funding needs.

He said: “The £3.3bn covers non-wage inflationary cost pressures; you’re getting money to stay put. All the money that would have had to be diverted from the priorities of the long-term plan to make sure it’s balancing the books is in theory protected, but the problem is that the budget also came with new expectations: improved ambulance performance, which It’s going to take a Herculean effort; Improvement of waiting times in the ER; and then improve access to general practice.

“On the one hand [the Treasury has] given more money to help the NHS stand still, then [it’s been] given the new expectations, but all the money has already been allocated just to sit still. It is very difficult to see how the NHS would meet those new commitments, meet its existing commitments and balance the books.”

The pay rates for NHS staff for 2023-24 and 2024-25 will not be set until next year, however this year, the government did not fully fund the 4-5 per cent pay. Analysis by the King’s Fund shows that every 1 per cent increase in staff pay will create £800m to £1bn of cost pressure on the NHS.

It is still unclear what the government will award to staff next year, however on Wednesday new health secretary Steve Barclay urged caution from the NHS Pay Review Body, which makes recommendations on pay increases in health services. , warning that the NHS budget had already been set to 2025.

Chris Thomas of the Institute for Public Policy Research said the independent that the funding is less than what the NHS needs, and less than what it is anticipated to need. He said it will only cover “key priorities” and could mean a trade-off between what the health service can and cannot do.

“What it definitely means is that there is no room in that money for transformation… there is no money for reform, there is no capacity to duplicate services, to take on innovation. So it seems quite difficult to fulfill that ambition that Jeremy Hunt talked about a lot, or to transform the waiting lists, or to avoid a crisis during the winter, or things in the long term.

I think we are on the cusp of disaster. [in the NHS]and the pressure in winter, the perpetual crisis, I don’t know if the 3,300 million pounds prevent that, ”he added.

Richard Sloggett, director of the Future Health think tank and a former adviser to the Department of Health and Human Care, warned that areas such as public health and primary care were likely to lose out from the fall declaration.

One of the key targets set by the Treasury for the NHS is to improve waiting times for emergency care year on year. This year hospitals have seen new monthly records for long waiting times for emergency care in England.

Responding to the budget announcement, the Royal College of Emergency Medicine said it was grateful for the funding, but given current inflation, “Trusts will still have tough decisions to make. There will be concerns about what the NHS can do and what it might need to cut.”

Under the Treasury proposals, ambulance service response times for category two patients, such as those suspected of having a stroke, would be reduced to 30 minutes on average. Ambulance Chief Executives Association managing director Martin Flaherty said that for this to be achieved, delays in deliveries from hospitals would need to be eradicated and the government would have to commit to a multi-year investment in ambulance services based on an independent review of demand and capacity.

A Treasury spokesman said the NHS’s independent pay review body would launch a process into possible pay increases, with its findings published next year.

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