By Richard Johnstone | 14 February 2013
Financial pressures in both health and social care are beginning to harm services in England, a King’s Fund quarterly survey has found.
Almost a third of NHS finance directors and half of social services directors questioned by the think-tank said the quality of provision had worsened in the past year.
A little under two-thirds of the finance directors said waiting times for health services in their local area were longer, with continuing pressures on acute services, particularly Accident & Emergency.
However, more than two-thirds of the 48 FDs reported that their organisation would meet its 2012/13 savings targets under the Quality, Innovation, Productivity and Prevention programme. This aims to make £20bn worth of productivity improvements across the NHS in England by 2015. Only three directors said they anticipated running a deficit in the current financial year.
In terms of social care services, almost three-quarters of the 58 directors polled were pessimistic about the outlook for local health and care spending in the next 12 months.
King’s Fund chief economist John Appleby said the NHS faced unprecedented financial pressures and there were ‘growing worries that patient care will suffer’.
He added: ‘For social care, it will be increasingly difficult for councils to make further savings without directly cutting services or affecting quality.
‘Health and care services have coped well until now, but it is clear that many organisations expect things to become much more difficult over the coming year.'
Responding to the report, the NHS Confederation said the report reinforced ‘what our members have been telling us for some time’.
Chief executive Mike Farrar said that, following the Francis report into care failings at the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, the survey reiterated the need to ‘focus on patients first and foremost’.
He added: 'Despite huge efforts to maintain standards of care and finances, NHS leaders are increasingly concerned about the pressures mounting on their organisations and the knock-on impact of reductions in funding for local government services.
‘We need to look beyond short-term solutions that balance the books and examine how we can transform the way we deliver care so that it provides the best outcomes for people, in a way that is fully sustainable in the long term. Unless we start doing this now, we will continue to battle with growing financial pressures, putting strain on our ability to maintain standards of care.’