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NHS ‘losing battle’ against financial challenges

12 February 2014

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A group of senior MPs claim the health and care system is not meeting the “Nicholson Challenge”. 

The annual report into public expenditure on health and social care states that “fundamental” changes are needed to that services can be joined up and patient-focused. 

Health Committee chair Stephen Dorrell noted that while many straightforward savings have been made, there has not been a “transformation of care on the scale which is needed to meet demand and improve care quality”. 

Dorrell said: “The NHS budget is static, and the social care budget is falling. In these circumstances, the successful integration of high-quality health and care services represents a substantial and growing challenge.”

The committee believes that at some point the NHS employee pay freeze has to come to an end. 

“If the health and care system is to be a good employer (which it needs to be if it is to deliver high quality care) it needs to undertake transformative change in order to ensure that its committed staff are better able to meet the needs of users of its services,” said Stephen Dorrell. 

Dr Mark Porter, Chair of the British Medical Association council welcomed the committee’s recognition. 

He said: “While we all know that health providers face year-on-year cuts, the continued erosion of doctors’ pay as the main tool to cope with increasing demand has only highlighted the Government’s failure to find a meaningful and sustainable solution to the funding crisis facing the NHS.

“We have seen real terms cuts to pay for the vast majority of doctors, dressed up as efficiency savings. It is no wonder that despite doctors working harder than ever before and with productivity across the NHS going up, doctors’ morale is going down.” 

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing said: “It’s now accepted that we have a significant shortage of nursing staff in the health system – as well as filling over 20,000 nursing staff vacancies that we have in the NHS, we need to make sure that we retain those staff already working in the health system.  

“We can’t afford to take the risk that staff won’t leave the NHS in search of better wages in the near future.”