HEALTH chiefs today set out the extent of sweeping changes needed to tackle a £30 billion funding gap facing the NHS by 2020.
In a move expected to heap pressure on politicians ahead of the General Election, the report by new NHS chief executive Simon Stevens calls for a “radical” shake-up of healthcare in England, warning of “severe consequences” for patients without it, and calling for a boost in funding from an incoming government.
It says unless action is taken now there will be a “growing health and care quality gap” in five years’ time.
It calls for action to tackle the root causes of ill health, backing “hard-hitting” moves on obesity and alcohol and better working between GPs, hospitals, mental health and social care services to cope with an ageing population and millions of people with long-term illnesses.
But it concludes action to curb demand, make savings and increase funding will be vital to close the financial gap.
It said if the NHS could make annual savings of three per cent by implementing the plan, there would still be a funding gap of £8bn, requiring increases in funding of inflation plus 1.5 per cent, more than any party is offering.
Mr Stevens said: “Healthcare in this country has improved dramatically over recent years and has weathered recent financial storms with remarkable resilience, thanks to protected funding and the commitment and dedication of NHS staff.
“But the NHS is now at a crossroads - as a country we need to decide which way to go. It is perfectly possible to improve and sustain the NHS over the next five years in a way that the public and patients want.
“But to secure the future that we know is possible, the NHS needs to change substantially, and we need the support of governments and partners to do so.” It suggests creating new organisations providing GP and hospital care, as well as mental, community and social care.
Mr Stevens added: “We have no choice but to do this. If we do it a better NHS is possible, if we don’t the consequences for patients will be severe.”
Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham claimed the report “lays bare the inadequacy of Tory funding plans for the NHS which, if left unchanged, will trigger an NHS crisis”.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt welcomed the report he said set out how the NHS could improve in future “but only if it continues to implement important reforms and is supported by a strong economy”.
Chris Ham, chief executive of The King’s Fund, said the report was a “significant moment” for the NHS. He said: “It throws down the gauntlet to the political parties to back fundamental changes to health services that could significantly improve care for patients.”