News | Published April 06 2019

Difference in local health body financial performance could put NHS Long Term Plan at risk, say MPs

MPs warned that the disparity in financial performance between local CCGs and trusts could place the NHS long term plan in "jeopardy" this week.

The Public Accounts Committee said that there was a "worrying level of disparity" in terms of financial performance between health bodies.

In a report conducted by the committee, it was explained that "wide variation" was placing the "Long Term Plan in jeopardy".

The Long Term Plan for the NHS was unveiled this January.

The long-awaited document set out what the service would deliver in exchange for the funding pledge made by the prime minister in 2018.

In 2018 Theresa May committed to increasing the overall annual budget by £20.5 billion by 2025. She set out the priorities for the service as being around mental health, community care and earlier detection of cancers.

Launching the Long Term Plan in Liverpool in January this year, the prime minister said: “The NHS is the public’s priority so I have made it my number-one spending priority.” She added that the government had made the increase in funding without increasing taxes. Independent charities have pointed out that in the period up to the announcement, the NHS has received the lowest level of annual increase in its history.

She said the launch of the plan was a “truly historic moment”.

Seven months earlier Mrs May told the BBC part of the funding would come from the “Brexit dividend” of withdrawing from the European Union. The chair of the House of Commons health and social care committee, Sarah Wollaston, said this was “tosh”.

Different sections of the media led on different aspects of the January plan.

The Guardian focused on the request from senior NHS managers to repeal key parts of the 2012 Health and Social Care Act relating to competition in NHS services.

This legislation was brought in by former health secretary Andrew Lansley and has been blamed for increasing the complexity of the system and some services being provided by private companies.

A leader in The Daily Telegraph said while “there is much in the ten-year NHS plan to commend it … Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, said consensus had been achieved about what needs to change, though this agreement has been sought and found principally within the monolithic service itself.

“Although patient groups were involved, this plan has been drawn up by the management of the NHS, which is arguably part of the problem, not the solution.”

Most media outlets reported the government’s estimate that 500,000 lives could be saved over the next decade with an increased focus on preventing ill health or catching heart conditions and cancers early.

Sky News reported NHS bosses’ estimates that “150,000 heart attacks, strokes and dementia cases

will be prevented, and three million people will benefit from improved stroke, respiratory and cardiac services.”

Unions warned that the commitments in the plan were likely to be undermined by the severe staff shortages which see roughly one in 11 posts go unfilled.

NHS leaders cautioned politicians and the public not to expect to see the service suddenly start hitting waiting times targets for A&E and elective procedures because of the money.

The service has not met most of the access targets introduced in the early noughties for several years.

In an interview with the BBC’s Today programme Simon Stevens would not commit to hitting the targets again and said the commitment that 95 per cent of A&E attendees be seen within four hours was being removed.

He also noted that the commitments the service had made in exchange for the money were conditional on an earlier agreement from the government that any further cuts to social care budgets would not affect the NHS.

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The Parliamentary Review

April 06 2019

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