Warnings of £30 billion “black hole” in NHS budget

The heads of several Royal Colleges, the Royal College of Nursing and the British Medical Association have issued a warning in an open letter that the very founding principles of the NHS may be at stake. According to leading doctors, nurses and healthcare charities, Britain’s National Health Service is simply buckling under strain.

The organisations backing the open letter, which represent many thousands of people working in the health care arena and have warned that staff are becoming increasingly demoralised as the NHS struggles to care properly for vulnerable or elderly patients, and fails to hit important cancer targets.

The coalition of union leaders, major healthcare charities, and medical colleges such as the BMA or Royal College of Nursing have warned that the NHS is in desperate need of a “fully costed” plan to address the predicted £30 billion shortfall in funding caused by rapidly rising demand for services and stagnant budgets.

The state of the NHS has been top of the agenda during the autumn party conferences, and both the Prime Minister and the Shadow Health Secretary delivered rousing speeches about healthcare. NHS England is predicting however that by 2020, budgets could be short by as much as £30 billion. Experts are critical of the politicians’ promises though, and say that funding will not be enough to maintain current levels of service.

The letter, which was sent to the Independent newspaper, is a call to government to address the state of funding within the NHS. It says that the NHS and social care is at breaking point, and that things just cannot carry on as they are at present. It also point out the £30 billion funding hole which is predicted by 2020, and says that this funding gap has to be filled.

The group of charities and professional organisations claims that what is needed is a properly-costed, spending plan for the long term if the NHS is to stick to its original principles of healthcare for all.

An analysis of millions of hospital records shows that there will be the need to find billions in additional funding and may have to build and operate 20 new hospitals by the early 2020s unless community treatment can be improved. The Nuffield Trust carried out the analysis, not the Financial Times, and the results showed that the number of hospital admissions increased 16% between 2006 and 2013.

If admissions continue to rise at the same rate as our population grows and becomes older, hospitals will have to cope with an extra 6.2 million overnight stays, at a cost of about £7.5 billion. So far, the overall £113 billion budget for the NHS has been protected, but there is increasing concern about an ageing population and rises of those with a long-term illness. During the past four years, the NHS has had its funding squeezed for the longest time since it was established.

Extra staff are now being recruited to help, but over 65% of hospitals are now running in the red. Key target for waiting times are also being missed.

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