NHS leader calls for more money ahead of budget

Corridor before the hospital morgue

The National Health Service is in desperate need of extra billions in funding, according to an organisation representing hospitals, and has asked the government to prioritise the health service.

NHS Providers, which represents acute, ambulance, community, and mental health services called for more investment in general practice and social care in a submission ahead of the chancellor’s autumn statement on Wednesday.

The chancellor, Philip Hammond, will for the first time outline his spending priorities, after taking up the position following the EU referendum in June and the departure of his predecessor George Osborne.

NHS Providers joins a long list of politicians and think tanks that have raised concerns about the state of the health service and its finances.

Although the government has promised an extra £8 billion funding by 2020, the Public Accounts Committee earlier this month said the NHS in England will face a funding shortfall of £30 billion a year by 2020/21.

According to NHS Providers, general practice and social care are struggling to keep pace with demand, and this is having a knock-on effect in areas such as accident and emergency departments.

On any given day, it says up to 6,800 beds in hospitals are occupied by patients who are medically fit to leave hospital but cannot leave due to a lack of available community and social care services.

These delays cost hospitals around £820 million per year, said NHS Providers.

The NHS must also stop raiding capital budgets to pay off deficits and invest in infrastructure, and rethink a programme to deliver further efficiency savings on top of the £2.9 billion savings delivered in 2015/16, it says.

NHS Providers chief executive, Chris Hopson, said: “NHS trusts are working flat out to develop new and better ways of delivering patient care, but they urgently need targeted extra investment in the areas of greatest need. Investing in general practice and social care, as well as stopping the raids on capital spending to ensure our hospitals and other buildings are fit for purpose, must be an urgent priority.”

Hopson has called for a new funding plan lasting for the rest of this parliament, and longer term planning for the 2020-2040 period, where the NHS will face an “existential challenge” because of changing demographic pressures.

A Department of Health spokesperson said in a statement: "This government has taken tough economic decisions that have allowed us to invest in our NHS, which is meeting record patient demand whilst improving standards of care. We have prioritised funding for the NHS with £4bn extra this year. We're also giving councils access to more money for social care — up to £3.5bn by 2020 and are making sure GPs get the time they need to care for patients.”