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Spending review’s focus on 7-day services “troubling” says IHM

26 November 2015

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The government’s focus on seven-day services was a “troubling detail” in the spending review yesterday, Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Institute of Health Managers (IHM) said.

This is as recent research from the Royal College of GPs (RCGP) showed that patients want ministers to focus on improving existing services, rather than delivering seven day access to general practice, Cramer explained.

Moreover, “it also remains unclear exactly what funding will be available to support this,” she added.

She said: “While there is clearly some good news for the health service today, there are also some troubling details. It is notable, for example, that the government is pressing ahead with a seven-day NHS, despite recent research from the RCGP showing two thirds of patients think ministers should focus on improving existing services, rather than delivering seven day access to general practice.”

On the other hand, the Institute highlighted that “one of the most positive outcomes” of the government’s latest spending review is the commitment to integrate health and social care by 2020, and a welcome increase of the Better Care Fund of £1.5bn by 2019-20 for local authorities, to support integration.

While the rise in overall NHS budget from £101bn to £120bn by 2020/21 was received well by the Institute, “the extra money comes with significant caveats” they warned. They are “extremely concerned” about the cuts to the budget of Health Education England, as there is a “need for more effort on management training across the NHS at all levels to improve services for patients and to deal effectively with the scale of change required.”

Cramer added that “continued cuts to public health budgets also stand to pile further unsustainable demand on the NHS, which may well outweigh the extra funding announced. If, as has been proposed, local authorities have to take on total responsibility for funding public health using revenue from local business rates after 2018, it will exacerbate health inequalities, and health and wellbeing in the most deprived areas will suffer the most.”