NHS Confed chief calls for sustainable funding fix

16 Jun 17

The government needs to stop its piecemeal approach to NHS support and fix underlying funding problems, Niall Dickson chief executive of the NHS Confederation has said.

Speaking at this year’s NHS Confederation in Liverpool on 14 June, Dickson said the “fragile” political climate in the UK was an opportunity for the government to rethink its approach to healthcare.

“There is a chance now to re-set the clock and think through what can be achieved in the coming months and years,” he said.

Dickson, who is speaking at next month’s CIPFA conference in Manchester, said NHS staff knew the service was entering a phase of change.

He noted that the over the last five years the UK has experienced the greatest population growth since 1945 but funding growth since 2009 has been lower than at anytime since the health service was founded.

Dickson also highlighted the growth in older people. Between 1995 and 2000 there were 100,000 more people aged over 65 but between 2010 and 2015 that grew by 1.3 million, he said.

This is expected to rise by 1 million by 2020, a further 1.3 million by 2025 and 1.7 million come 2030.

He praised the resilience of the NHS to meet growing demand but warned that “urgent action” was needed or care quality would deteriorate.

Dickson said the distraction of Brexit and the fact no party is likely to have a strong parliamentary majority could stop the government making bold decisions about health and social care.

“Our message to the politicians is that when it comes to the NHS, we have to stop launching life rafts and start fixing the ship,” he added.

He identified the main issues of money, transformation and workforce and reiterated the call made during the general election that the confederation wanted the government to commit a percentage of GDP for the NHS.

Dickson added: “We urgently need an objective assessment of what the service needs in the short term and the coming decade such an assessment might not secure political consensus but at least it would expose the scale of the challenge.”

There also was a need to be “honest” about what could and could not be achieved.

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