A ‘tough’ 2011 for Britain’s NHS

The NHS would have a tough year ahead said the NHS Confederation suggesting 2011 could end up being the “toughest year” in the NHS’ 62-year history. The major issues would be the structural reforms from health secretary Andrew Lansley, the difficulty of finding £20 billion of efficiency savings and the uncertainty created by debate over a major piece of healthcare legislation would all contribute to a tough year.

Acting chief executive Nigel Edwards said, “If the issues are not fully recognized, they will be dealt with poorly and patients will be the losers…The NHS is going to have to get all hands to the pumps and it will need all the help it can get. We need policymakers to fully understand the pressures, to act to mitigate the risks and to persuade those involved that we are on the right course.” Mr. Edwards added, “The state will be withdrawing from the day-to-day management of healthcare and power, accountability and decision making will work in new ways…The culture change for NHS staff, politicians, the media and the wider public is even larger than the technical and structural changes being introduced.”

According to shadow health secretary John Healey Mr Edwards’ comments were not what people expected when David Cameron promised to “protect the NHS”. He said, “When the NHS must deal with such a tight financial squeeze, this is exactly the wrong time to force the NHS through a big internal reorganization which could cost £3 billion when this money is needed for frontline staff and to treat patients.”

But Health Minister Simon Burns said, “Reform is a necessity, not an option.” In the reforms GPs will take control of most of the multi-billion-pound NHS budget by 2013, planning hospital care and services for patients in a sweeping reform that will see primary care trusts and strategic health authorities abolished. Mr. Burns added, “We are pleased that the NHS Confederation supports the need for reform and for the NHS to make savings… These things go hand in hand – the NHS budget is protected, but it must still simplify its structure and cut bureaucracy, which will release further savings to invest in care for patients.”

By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD

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