THERESA MAY has promised to introduce a long-term funding plan for the National Health Service to mark its 70th anniversary.
She believes this is essential if it is to plan for the future effectively. Yet, while Ministers will use part of the Brexit dividend, and also changes to the tax system, to raise funds, major political surgery is necessary if this money is to be spent wisely.
This is self-evident with the publication of two major reports today which are required reading for Mrs May and those from rival political parties who are committed to working together to help the NHS to meet the public’s expectations which are very different to those of 1948. As the British Medical Association releases a raft of data purporting to show that patients have just endured the worst winter on record when it comes to key performance indicators like waiting times, trolley waits and hospital bed occupancy rates. NHS Providers – the body which represents health trusts – also says promises to transform community care have not materialised.
This is a familiar and fundamental failing. If more people, particularly the elderly, are treated for less serious injuries and ailments at home or their local health centre, and are only admitted to hospital as a last resort, overstretched A&E units will be able to devote more time to genuine medical emergencies. It also requires individuals being more responsible for their health – and not heading to casualty with the slightest sniffle or scratch.
This is why any long-term funding plan will amount to little more than a short-term sticking plaster solution unless there’s genuine integration between hospitals, community health provision and social care. To achieve this, political leaders need to devise a new structure for the delivery of health policy, and only then work out the funding implications, if they’re serious about reform.