A British hospital ward (Guardian photo)
The head of Britain’s NHS Providers, which represents hospitals across the country has issued a stark warning that National Health Services (NHS) is on the verge of collapse due to its swelling cash crisis.
Years of underfunding have left the service confronting such “impossible” demands that without immediate extra investment in November’s autumn statement, it will have to slash staff, bring in charges or introduce “draconian rationing” of treatment – all options that will trigger public unrest, said Chief Executive of NHS Providers Chris Hopson in a Saturday column in the Observer daily.
“Taken together this means the NHS is increasingly failing to do the job it wants to do and the public needs it to do, through no fault of its own,” he added.
His assessment came days before the influential Commons health select committee decides whether to launch a special inquiry into the state of the NHS in the UK. This is while the state of the NHS is emerging as the main domestic challenge facing the new government of Prime Minister Theresa May.
In the bleak appraisal of the NHS’s own health, the chief of NHS Providers, which speaks for hospital trust chairs and chief executives, also stated that widespread breaches of performance targets, chronic understaffing and massive overspending by hospitals mean that it is heading back to the visible decline it last experienced in the 1990s.
“We face a stark choice of investing the resources required to keep up with demand or watching the NHS slowly deteriorate. They are saying it is impossible to provide the right quality of service and meet performance targets on the funding available. Something has to give,” Hopson further emphasized.
In a direct appeal to the prime minister to boost NHS funding in the autumn statement, he also cautioned that the government will face “unpalatable choices” if the service is to keep within the existing budget.
“The logical areas to examine would be more draconian rationing of access to care, formally relaxing performance targets, shutting services, extending and increasing charges, cutting the priorities the NHS is trying to deliver or, more explicitly, controlling the size of the NHS workforce,” Hopson underlined.
His warning came days after the NHS posted its worst set of performance figures for services such as A&E, planned operations and ambulance response times.
Hopson blamed the “full-blown crisis in social care” generated by cuts to town hall budgets for causing “major problems for the NHS,” such as record numbers of healthy patients who cannot be discharged because social care is not available. This means that “hospitals are now being asked to routinely run at capacity levels that risk patient safety.”
Meanwhile, a government spokesman cited in local press reports said, “We know the NHS is under pressure because of our ageing population, but we rightly expect the service to continue to ensure that patients get treated quickly.”