Progression of NHS Funding Bill historic for firms like Atrumed
February 2020 has been historic for both British politics and healthcare sector operators as the NHS Bill cleared the House of Commons and House of Lords and is now well on course to receive Royal Assent.
The government’s “long term plan” will enshrine in law an additional £33.9 billion of funding for the NHS per year for the next four years. The Bill binds the government into a legal duty to guarantee a minimum level of spending on the health service, rising to £148.5 billion by the year 2024.
The bill will also not restrict the NHS in how and where the additional funds are spent, and provides safeguards to ensure that the annual supply estimates for the department’s NHS budget cannot be reduced. This legal exception will see NHS frontline funding protected for the very first time.
Prime minister Boris Johnson hailed the bill as proof that his government will “stop at nothing to deliver on the people’s priorities”. Furthermore, for operators within the industry both private and public, it is a moment that they have long awaited.
Atrumed is a private firm which runs the on-site emergency GP clinic at Luton and Dunstable University Hospital, which in 2019 was the best-performing A&E facility in the UK. 40 per cent of A&E activity coming through the hospital was reverted to Atrumed’s clinic as of last year.
Atrumed chief-executive Laween Al-Atroshi had spoken to The Parliamentary Review in 2019 about the strain put on the NHS by reduced funding as a result of austerity measures imposed by previous Conservative governments. He discussed how this had culminated in a knock-one effect for his business in having to help the public sector NHS Trust relieve their burden.
However, with increased NHS funding finally to come, there is some hope for an improvement to what is widely regarded as a crisis situation.
Al-Atroshi told the Review: “The NHS is under a lot of pressure as a result of reduced funding, so our main purpose is to reduce their burden as best we can. A&E services are at full capacity around the UK and there is a dearth of qualified staff to treat patients.
“To reduce the strain on the NHS and the A&E services, we have produced educational resources that aim to help people understand the purpose of A&E and present them with alternative modes of receiving medical attention without clogging waiting rooms.”
Al-Atroshi called for increased funding for core services at the time, and the new funding bill reaching the Commons will, therefore, likely come as welcome news.
“Regardless of who the provider of the care is, there needs to be increased funding for core services from the government", Al-Atroshi said.
“Service in the UK needs to be more readily available, and to meet that need we need to see collaboration between the public and private sectors. Our provision should be seen as a good news story for the private healthcare sector, because we have been able to provide a vital service for an overstretched public sector department seamlessly. Any revenue generated is invested back into the staff and service. This is benefiting the hospital and the patients, which should be celebrated.”
With these concerns heeded and the boost of increased funding now to come, there is hope that Atrumed as a firm will be freed up to place more focus on its plans for future expansion, which Al-Atroshi also discussed.
He said: “We have ambitions to be at the forefront of the industry in terms of research and innovation. Moving forward, we hope to expand our service and create a new aspect to our business.
“Currently, for example, we believe that there is not enough readily available access to private blood tests, and as a result we want to add this service as a separate part of Atrumed.”
In reality, it remains to be seen as to how far the additional funding pledges will go in relieving the crisis facing the health service, but for certain it is cause for encouragement for the healthcare sector and all eyes will be on how the bill is implemented going forward and how effectively new funds are invested.