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NHS rescue fund in jeopardy, says think tank

healthcare

NHS leaders are starving the health service of ‘transformation’ funding, a leading think tank has warned.

In a report released today, The King’s Fund warns the FYFV (Five Year Forward View) rescue plan, designed by NHS England and chief executive Simon Stevens, is in jeopardy as cash intended to reshape services is diverted to plug gaps in hospitals’ budgets.

Of the £2.1bn earmarked by health secretary Jeremy Hunt for the ‘sustainability and transformation fund’ this year, just £300m is left to transform health services.

The lion’s share of the fund, £1.8bn, has been diverted by NHS England to keep hospitals out of the red.

This leaves little to spend on modernising services – one of the key moves the FYFV paper proposed to put the NHS back on a firm financial footing.

 

Ring-fencing

The King’s Fund chief executive Chris Ham said the future of the NHS depended on being able to rollout the changes outlined in the FYFV.

He urged ministers to encircle the transformation fund with a protective official ‘ring-fence’ instead of using the cash to cover deficits.

‘By ring-fencing £1.8bn for the next two years to reduce deficits, national NHS bodies are effectively leaving the NHS without the investment needed to deliver the transformation of services set out in the Forward View’.

The King’s Fund report has been published to mark the third of the FYFV’s five-year run.

BMA council chair Mark Porter: ‘The NHS is at breaking point, as investment in health simply isn’t keeping up with demand. We’re still seeing hospitals without beds, waiting times too high, crushing pressure on mental health services and cuts to the public health budget. The majority of trusts are in the red and the NHS doesn’t have enough staff or resources to meet demands. 

‘Robbing Peter to pay Paul simply isn’t going to help the worsening financial situation. It is absolutely crucial that adequate funding, both in terms of up-front capital and long-term resource, is provided to ensure that any changes can make a real difference.

‘If the Government is serious about tackling health inequality, then we need to see a long-term strategy for the NHS that addresses the fundamental workload and funding challenges that are overwhelming our health service.’

 

STP credibility

The warning about the transformation fund raid comes amid growing concern about the credibility of STPs (sustainability and transformation plans).

Such plans aims to set out how NHS and social care services can be modernised across 44 areas in England, using the income from the £2.1bn fund that is at risk.

STPs are drawn up by local health leaders, commissioners and councils and are due to be rolled out next year.

The BMA believes STPs raise opportunities for collaboration and long-term planning, but has a number of concerns over elements including funding and accountability.

But as BMA News reported last week, multiple warnings – of apparent increasing urgency – have been issued by hospital representatives, the NHS agency that oversees trusts, and the boards that scrutinise STPs (sustainability and transformation plans).

BMA representative body chair Anthea Mowat said there is ‘great concern that STPs are not financially viable’. 

‘In order to maximise the benefits from STPs, the NHS, public health and social care functions need to be adequately resourced,’ she said.

‘The tight timescale to sign off STPs risks decisions being made without full consideration of the implications for patients and for staff, and without proper governance procedures being in place.’

Read more about STPs 

Watch a BMA webinar on STPs

Read The King's Fund progress report

 

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