The Government Watchdog, National Audit Office has undermined the financial health of England’s National Health Service (NHS), attributing the state of affair to the existence of unresolved rising deficits. NHS England is an executive non-departmental public arm of the Department of Health and Social Care in the United Kingdom. NHS plans and supervises the budget, planning, delivery and day-to-day operation of the commissioning of healthcare services in England.
The National Audit Office, in its scrutinization of accounts of all the NHS trusts and Clinical Commissioning Groups, has highlighted discrepancies including deficits, growing waiting lists and year-on-year increases in waiting times, that have been overlooked. The analysis revealed that even though NHS has been successful in maintaining an overall balance through deficits and surpluses in FY2017-18, the regional financial strain and challenges seem to be neglected.
The Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, that operates Bradford Royal Infirmary and St Luke's Hospital, believes that it will be on the surplus side with EUR0.8 million much below its planned surplus of EUR2.8 million for the FY2018-2019. Even though, for the year ending 2018, the trust reported a deficit of EUR3.6 million much above the planned deficit of EUR1.8 million. Likewise, Airedale NHS Foundation Trust has also predicted the same for its finances to be in surplus but also indicated for rising pressures to deliver quality services that may make the scenario a bit difficult.
The above figures include reward funds from the Provider Sustainability Funding allocation, which is a Treasury-funded scheme totalling EUR2.45 billion, that distributes money to trusts if they exhibit financial improvements, meet certain performance targets either by reducing deficits or accumulating surpluses.
Furthermore, the NAO reports also highlight that most of the finances have been spent catering to short term rising requirements than in longer term plans and programmes. Besides, there are other challenges to channelize the funding into the right places. To add to the burden, increased health spending accompanied by an ageing population and falling immigration has shot up the public deficit in this sector.
The watchdog’s stance on the NHS England follows the similar plight of the NHS Scotland that got reported back in October 2018. The NHS Scotland was also immersed in rising funding burden, inability to retain staff and a large maintenance backlog. Although, spending per head in Scotland is considered higher than in England, yet the system exhibited signs of distress amidst similar challenges as faced by NHS England. Some additional factors were also at play such as staff sick leaves, rising drug cost etc.
Overall, the performance of the National Health Service across the UK is deteriorating, and it is seeking urgent remedial course of attention from the governments. Thus, the watchdog’s remarks are evidently legit. While some stakeholders hold the government accountable for inadequate funding provisions, others believe that the core organisational issues such as ineffective spending strategy being implemented by the respective trusts need to be altered to achieve a favourable outcome. Since healthcare services are extremely important, the NHS needs to address these challenges with appropriate measures and support from the government.
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