Political interests must be set aside with parties joining up behind a long-term plan for the NHS, experts have warned on its 75th birthday.
Three think tanks today jointly wrote to the Prime Minister accusing his and previous Governments of ‘short-termism’ in NHS policy-making, suggesting it is a ‘strategy doomed to failure’.
The Health Foundation, The King’s Fund and Nuffield Trust called on Rishi Sunak to commit to a multi-year, cross-government strategy over the next parliament to improve the underlying social and economic factors that affect poor health.
Also addressed to the leaders of the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats, the think tanks said the next Government will need to choose between proper investment or ‘managed decline’.
Marking the same occasion, former health secretary Sajid Javid yesterday called for a royal commission to consider the future of the NHS, adding that politicians privately concede that the NHS is unsustainable in its current state.
In an article for The Times, Mr Javid argued that this commission must provide a ‘dispassionate and honest’ assessment of the NHS, with a view of providing a ‘collective mandate’ for reform.
Meanwhile, another set of experts called for a ‘short-term reboot’ for the NHS in the form of a one-off £40bn extra a year investment for four-to-five years.
The suggestion was made by former NICE chair Sir David Haslam and University of Reading professor David Pendleton, who said this was required to ‘prevent a whole-system collapse’.
They also said funding should be refocused towards primary and social care to reduce pressure on hospitals.
And bolstering social services to provide ‘around the clock services’ would allow patients to be discharged from hospital more efficiently, they suggested, freeing up hospital beds.
Currently, one-in-five hospital beds are occupied by people who are well enough to leave but do not have the appropriate social care plans in place to safely do so.
They added that the new long-term workforce plan was an important step but must not ‘simply produce more medical professionals bound for Australia and the USA’.
The plan, published last week, pledged £2.4bn of Government investment in order to double medical school places and increase GP training places by 50% by 2031 but it was criticised for lacking plans to retain GPs.
Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting last month indicated that the Labour Party may give general practice a larger percentage of NHS funding.