NHS reform ambitions hampered by funding constraints

11 Jul 16

Funding constrains represent one of the greatest threats to the implementation of the NHS Five Year Forward View, despite a government pledge to increase spending on the health service by £8bn by 2020.

An analysis by the Health Foundation found there was a mismatch between funding and staffing levels that, along with repeated reorganisation, had led to a “boom and bust” approach to the NHS frontline.

Health service chiefs have therefore been forced to use costly, reactive and short-term solutions to tackle staffing problems, including recruiting from overseas. But the foundation’s director of research and economics Anita Charlesworth said this only put a sticking plaster on deep-seated and systemic problems for the NHS, particularly in light of the UK’s vote to leave the European Union.

“Funding constraints and workforce shortages without a doubt present the greatest risks to the delivery of the Five Year Forward View – and the longer-term sustainability of our NHS,” she stated.

“The current approach to workforce policy needs to be overhauled so that staffing and funding are treated as two sides of the same coin.”

Today’s Staffing matters; funding counts report therefore called on policymakers to look at how to make more effective use of temporary staff at a time when action is being taken to control spending on agency workers.

A more long-term and sustainable approach is needed, Charlesworth stated, particularly in light of the Brexit vote.

“The recent decision for the UK to leave the EU will create additional challenges – both in terms of finances and the ability to attract and retain valuable European staff.

“We urgently need a fully aligned and coordinated national approach to workforce policy and planning, underpinned by greater predictability on funding, to ensure the NHS can sustain high quality health care for the long term.”

The report called on policymakers to look at how international recruitment can be used in the short term alongside policies focused on staff retention and effective use of temporary staff. Longer term, the think tank said there should be a greater role for government in monitoring and moderating international recruitment to the NHS.

Did you enjoy this article?