Responding to the National Audit Office’s reports on NHS Financial Management and Sustainability, Anita Charlesworth, Director of Research and Economics at the Health Foundation, said:
‘The NAO has sounded a timely warning bell about the significant financial and operational challenges facing the NHS. Even with the government’s proposed investment, the health service will struggle to maintain current levels of patient care in the face of growing demand, let alone deliver the ambitious improvements to services promised by the NHS Long Term Plan. The government has outlined a settlement for NHS England’s budget over this parliament. This covers the day to day running of NHS services, but there is no certainty about the wider health budget which provides funds to modernise hospitals, train doctors and nurses, and run prevention services.
‘The NAO’s report lays bare the difficulties that NHS providers are having in financing vital upgrade and maintenance work. With the piecemeal funding that the government has pledged towards hospital upgrades, trusts are finding it impossible to adequately plan their spending. It is unacceptable that our health services’ infrastructure and technology lags so far behind other comparable countries – for example, we have only a third as many MRI or CT scanners as in Germany. Trusts are also contending with a backlog of disrepair that currently amounts to around £6.6bn, much of which puts patient safety at risk.
‘The NAO highlights that the NHS did not fully achieve the vision set out in the previous major plan for the NHS. Without substantial, long-term funding commitments to public health, workforce education and training, and capital, the NHS risks ending up in the same situation again.’
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