23 Nov 2016

Autumn Statement’s message: NHS has to get on with it

Although the signs were there that no more money would be forthcoming, those in the world of health and social care had kept their fingers crossed to the very last minute.

But today the Autumn Statement contained not one penny more for the NHS or social care services.The clear message from Downing Street was that they have had their extra funding one way or another and that they have to get on with it. That times are tough. And of course the services will ‘get on with it’. They always do. Yet there are real fears about how they will cope.


We filmed in Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham earlier this week and while the staff were doing a fantastic job they freely admitted they were worried.

The discharge ward was full and almost every patient was ready to leave except they couldn’t because there was no nursing home to go to or social services hadn’t been able to assess their care in their own home.

What’s more, there was a waiting list to get into the discharge ward, so we were in effect just seeing the tip of the problem.

Emergency admissions are up by 6 per cent, delayed transfers have risen from an average of 17 patients a day in September 2015 to 69 a day this September. There has been a reduction in agency social workers, so there isn’t the capacity to undertake patient assessments and transfer them back into the community.

Just for a flavour of the responses today:

Richard Murray, director of policy at The King’s Fund: ‘The absence of new money for health or social care means that the already intense pressures on services will continue to grow. The lack of extra money for social care funding, in particular, means we are likely to see an already threadbare safety net stretched even more thinly. This will impact on some of the most vulnerable people in society.”

Jeremy Taylor, chief executive of National Voices: “Patients, people who rely on services, charities and professionals have spoken with one voice. And the Government has completely ignored us.”

George McNamara, head of policy at Alzheimer’s Society: “Today’s Autumn Statement is a missed opportunity for the Government to address the needs of hundreds of thousands of people with dementia and their carers, leaving them to struggle at a time when they need vital care and support.”

Anita Charlesworth, Health Foundation: “Lack of action to address the huge and growing gap between the need for care and funding is a false economy which is already hitting the NHS and will now hit harder.”

And as NHS Providers pointed out, there was a rare degree of consensus in the health and social care sector that more funding was needed.

Chris Hopson said: “Trusts will continue to provide the best patient care they can but there is now a clear gap between what the NHS is being asked to deliver and the funding available. We need a realistic, agreed, plan on how we will close this gap. We’re already seeing key waiting times being missed. The CQC has also said there is already some deterioration in quality of care. Our worry is that this will get worse.”

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