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NHS must learn from austerity-era approach to funding, Confed exec says


By Jess Hacker
16 June 2022

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The NHS must learn from austerity and the ‘feast or famine’ approach to funding, the NHS Confederation chief executive has said.

Speaking at the Confed Expo today (15 June), Matthew Taylor noted that the capacity gap in the wider health and care system is growing, due not only to the pandemic but also the impact of austerity and the long-term failure to address the social determinants of health.

He suggested that these factors have helped create an environment where NHS staff must manage crises every day, noting that primary care is seeing 11% more patients with 5% fewer GPs compared to five years ago.

Mr Taylor later said: ‘We must learn the lessons of austerity and the ‘feast or famine’ approach to funding. We welcomed last year’s settlement for health and care.

‘We may argue with the Secretary of State and Treasury over its adequacy given the impact of inflation, but we can surely agree that it was only the first step back to financial sustainability.

‘We are accountable to the taxpayer and we all want to flatten the demand curve and get to a position of financial sustainability. But we won’t get there until we close the capacity gap.’

He called for ‘explicit commitment’ from the Government to deliver the real term funding increases that the NHS had seen from its inception through to 2009.

This would require at least a 4% per year in real terms for the next decade, in line with pre-austerity average.

The figure would also meet the minimum needed, as estimated by the Health Foundation, to ensure quality of care in the face of rising expectations, rising costs and population ageing.

Recent analysis revealed the NHS has lost 25,000 beds across the UK resulting in ‘unsafe’ bed occupancy levels.

NHS England last month admitted that its policy to reduce outpatient appointments risks putting ‘added pressure on primary care’.

Meanwhile, GPs warned the health secretary that practitioners are seeing an increasing number of referrals to secondary care being rejected ‘at the outset’.

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