1 Oct 2014

Tories and Labour failing to deal with NHS funding shortfall

And so the Conservatives have picked up the NHS gauntlet thrown down by Labour and announced that they would protect the health service budget and “continue to invest more” in the next parliament if elected.

That is, in effect, a commitment to keep its growth at least at the pace of inflation, which would in turn means at least flat line funding.

It is, of course, not enough and immediately the King’s Fund, the BMA and the Health Foundation pointed out that neither Labour nor the Conservatives have dealt with the sheer scale of the funding shortfall.

The BMA said:  “Daily, we’re seeing the effects of an NHS under extreme pressure – patients are having to wait longer to see their GP, A&E waiting times are the worst they’ve been in a decade and a winter crisis which has spilled over into spring, summer and autumn. Front-line staff are under extreme pressure, with unmanageable workloads often preventing them from being able to deliver the high quality care they want to for their patients.”

The King’s Fund said: “In the short term, more money is needed to support NHS organisations struggling as a result of the unprecedented pressures on their budgets meet the costs of essential changes to services.”

Read more: Labour’s health policy: eight months to fill in the blanks

And the Health Foundation reiterated that in 2015/16 alone the NHS will have a hole in its finances to the sum of £2bn, with a £30bn shortfall by 2020.

While there is a belief in some quarters that there is still room for efficiencies to be made, if you talk to NHS managers many will say they are just about at their limit. That they have sliced and diced as much as they dare.

The pressure, too, has been piled on by the need to meet the Francis challenge of hiring more staff, which adds significantly to costs.

Read more: is it time to start talking about the NHS?

However, all eyes will be focused on the next few months and the need to avert an A&E crisis. I can picture managers even as we speak looking nervously at their numbers (which have barely let up over the year) and even more nervously waiting for that dreaded phone call from the health secretary asking them what’s going on (it happened last winter).

The chances are that on top of the winter planning funding, the Treasury may be persuaded to cough up extra to avert too many poor patients lining up in ambulances outside hospitals (as they have been in Wales) and to avoid too many ghastly headlines.

But once the snow has cleared from the ground, and the daffodils start coming through, all parties will face some hard questions about how they are going to protect the NHS.

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3 reader comments

  1. Simon says:

    All the politicians are being duplicitous and avoiding the big white elephant/hard truth sitting in room….the country can’t avoid the NHS going forward with a ever increasing aged population. 0.1% above inflation funding increases under the Tories aren’t enough and the 6% annual increases under New Labour were never going to be sustainable. Patient/public expectations of the NHS have risen and the NHS in its current form can’t deal with the insatiable demand. Polictically driven health care consumerism and a state funding system is never going to work. Need vs. want. The only solution is a co payment system but no politician is going to raise this…political suicide they assume. In the meantime the NHS heads into terminal decline.

  2. Philip Edwards says:


    Just wait and see.

    “More investment” will translate into more back door privatisation to “rescue” the National Health Service.

    “Private Finance Initiative” will be renamed something else and still amount to the same thing. PFI schemes will still be sellable assets that have nothing to do with health care.

    The tories will still be liars, hypocrites and curmudgeonly thieves of a system they hated and opposed from its very inception. The NHS is NOT SAFE in their hands and never will be. Sooner or later, they and New Labour will hand it all over to Yank style spivs and scoundrels. If they are allowed to.

    The only way to fund the NHS is from direct taxation with a consensual allocated minimum percentage of our national wealth. Boot private firms out entirely and send them back to Dallas, New York, Washington, Frankfurt and Rome.

    Until that is done we’ll get more Cameron style lies and crocodile tears from the party that HATES any form of community action. NOTHING is safe in their hands, never mind the lives and health of your family.

    But, really, what else do you expect?

  3. Fiona Flaherty says:

    The problem is obvious. The NHS is funded by taxation taken directly from the industry giants in both retail and the pharmaceutical sectors. One makes us fat and ill, whilst the other offers us treatments for those same ills. The problem isn’t the NHS. It’s us, the consumers. The appalling retail choices we (the consumers) are making day in and day out remains the core issue. The net effect nationally is sub optimal heath of an epidemic proportion. As our immune systems become challenged a cycle of inflammation sets in within our bodies. We then seek out treatments and possible ‘cures’. Even these supposed solutions give way to both ongoing and prolonged ill health. But there is a single solution that we can implement right now. Simplify our consumption of food and drink by consuming seasonal and fresh foods from all groups. Then our needs for treatment will no longer an issue. Then the NHS will be used as it is intended. Just emergency care free at the point of delivery.

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