The NHS has long been a foundation of social structure in the UK, providing affordable health care to residents of all backgrounds and socioeconomic statuses. Now, though, the NHS is struggling financially to maintain quality of care. This is in part due to budget cuts for the NHS and the NHSI, an organisation responsible for overseeing government-funded healthcare services to ensure that they’re both safe and financially sustainable.
With the government is cutting back on health care spendings, NHS England and the NHSI are expected to slash their budget by as much as 20% across the board in the near future. This has the potential not only to lengthen wait times for patients but also increase the number who are denied treatments altogether. It may even affect the dwindling number of graduates entering the healthcare field, which is already a concern for short-staffed NHS facilities.
In a 2018 health meeting, board members concluded that both the NHS and the NHSI should have a “sharper focus on improving productivity and efficiency” while “share[ing] a commitment to deliver 20% efficiency.” This would mean cutting a combined annual budget of over £686 million, leaving the NHS with around £500 million and the NHSI with a budget of under £200 million. In late May this year, members from both parties agreed to work on a new joint operation model, creating more balanced regional healthcare systems and reducing overhead costs.
A Financial Crisis
The NHS has been in dire financial straits for years now. Between 2010 and 2017, health spending in the UK increased by an average of 1.2% above the inflation rate, and this trend is expected to continue. In 2016, the NHS faced a deficit of £2.6 billion, which was reduced to £800 million in 2017. Without intervention, the current system cannot continue as it’s been operating for the past few decades, or it’s liable to collapse.
Rising costs are in part due to the increasing price of health care across the board, which is the result of an inefficient and outdated system. There’s also a growing demand for quality healthcare from UK residents of all backgrounds. This is especially true of the country’s senior population, which is growing at an unprecedented rate. Medical costs are often significantly higher for the elderly, which places even more of a strain on an already fragile healthcare system.
Historically, increasing medical care costs were met with budget cuts, but this has only exacerbated the problem. Instead, integrated care has become a popular idea as of late, encouraging a system that’s able to “transform the ways of working to provide a single system view.” A paper titled ‘Next steps on delivering a single operating model and shared culture’ lays out the proposed model where 20 NHS executive group members will make joint decisions with “clear accountability” regarding NHS care services and develop a long-term “integrated strategy” for the NHS.
There are currently no plans to merge the NHS and the NHSI. The new model is not proposing that [the] two boards are brought to alignment with the single executive governance model.” Instead, the two organisations are expected to deliver joint services under a “shared leadership” to “collectively deliver greater value for the NHS.” The new system is set to be discussed for final approval by both the NHS and the NHSI at the end of November this year.