The Huffington Post opines: Government plans to increase funding are missing the point. Philip Hunt reports: Austerity, workforce shortages, a social care crisis and a complete failure to factor in a growing older population – it’s little surprise the NHS is reeling, Lord Philip Hunt writes.
November 2019 saw the worst four-hour wait performance in A&E since figures were first collected, back in 2010. This has been matched by failures on key targets for cancer, GP appointments and hospital treatment waits. At the same time, rationing of medicines is on the increase – with failings being increasingly revealed in ambulance services, mental health support, and for people with learning disabilities.
Given all of this, it’s a huge tribute to NHS staff that so much care remains of a very high quality. But the calamitous drop in performance over the past decade is having an impact on patient safety as well as leading to longer waits.
Just before Christmas, the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital advised staff to make the “least unsafe decision”, following a huge rise in admissions. It was
not an isolated incident. Indeed, 2020 has already seen the Royal Cornwall Hospital NHS Trust tell its staff to help reduce severe overcrowding by discharging patients – despite the obvious risks involved.
While many factors and pressures are at play, the alignment of austerity with workforce shortages, inadequacies of adult social care and a complete failure to factor in a growing older population, means it’s little surprise the NHS is reeling.
The lowest five-year period of funding growth occurred over the 2010/11 to 2014/15 period and the past five years have seen little improvement. Is it any wonder that the NHS is cash-strapped, in deficit and finding it very hard to invest the resources necessary to prevent hospital admissions? Latest estimates by the Health Foundation show a shortage of more than 100,000 staff, including 40,000 nurses.
All of this is happening when social care is in meltdown. By 2018, the House of Lords Economic Committee had reported that 1.4 million older people in England had an unmet care need. The number of older people and working-age adults requiring such care is increasing rapidly, yet public funding declined in real terms by 13% between 2009/10 and 2015/16.