A new report by the Health Foundation has called for more support for hospitals and GP practices, as well as extra funding, to secure the future of the NHS in England.
It projects that by 2021 there will be a £30bn gap between the budget for the NHS in England and what it actually needs to deliver services. With more than 60 Trusts now in the red, the authors say "cracks are starting to appear" in hospitals ability to offer high quality of care.
Equally, quality of care is deteriorating in some key areas such as mental health, 18-week waiting times and cancer waits according to quality care indicators.
Ignoring these challenges "risks an avoidable crisis in the NHS in the months and years to come", according to lead author Richard Taunt.
The director of policy at the Health Foundation said: "As our report shows, a debate is needed about how the NHS can best be supported to become more efficient and consistently provide high quality care. There is a risk that discussions around whether the NHS should be funded by the public or private purse become a dangerous distraction, at a time when the collective attention of the health service needs to be on how to deliver consistent and high quality care."
The Foundation further calls for significant changes to services should be accelerated to improve and maintain quality – more coordinated care across different settings, more care provided outside of hospitals, and a greater role for patients through self-management and shared decision making.
The report outlines three ways that the authors believe change should be supported within the NHS:
• Systematic improvement support for providers: The key organisations within the health care system should support providers of care in implementing improvements to services, both within their own organisation and working with other providers to deliver integrated care;
• Targeted resources: Two types of funding are needed: first a “transformation fund” to allow new services to be introduced and existing services to be improved;
• Political openness and support for change: Political support is critical for the changes needed both in the short and medium term.
The authors conclude that while extra money is needed for the NHS both in the short term (a transformation fund) and on an ongoing basis, money alone will not be enough to provide a comprehensive NHS that delivers care to existing levels of quality.
To read the report in full visit www.health.org.uk/publications/more-than-money-closing-the-nhs-quality-gap/