Underfunding crisis threatens NHS

Doctors have recently warned that the National Health Service (NHS) is facing collapsing services due to an underfunding crisis. However, the Con-Dem government is keen to point out that spending on the NHS is both ‘ring-fenced’ from austerity cuts and is rising in real terms. In reality…

  • The government is pushing through £20 billion in ‘efficiency savings’ ie cuts, by 2015, while NHS England estimates a £30 billion shortfall by 2021.
  • Making cuts means fewer staff and poorer healthcare. Since the Con-Dems came into office there are 5,000 fewer nurses working in the NHS. Staff shortages have resulted in trusts having to use agencies to supply staff costing even more money. For example, there has been a 60% rise in the total bill for locum doctors in the past three years.
  • The drive to achieve Foundation Trust (FT) status (all hospital trusts were meant to become FTs by April 2014) has also sparked rounds of cost cutting. It contributed to the scandal of ‘excessive deaths’ at the Mid Staffordshire Hospital because management cut permanent staffing levels on wards.
  • Furthermore, the rate of inflation in the NHS is significantly higher as a result of the excessive cost of drugs charged by mega-profitable pharmaceutical companies.
  • NHS resources are also being siphoned by rip-off Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contracts. Construction and maintenance of all new buildings in the NHS must be done through PFIs. These decades-long deals amount to a super-expensive hire-purchase arrangement, except that the buildings are not owned by the NHS but leased back to health trusts. PFI payments have drained many trusts of resources threatening healthcare provision. Over 25 trusts are currently facing bankruptcy.
  • In 2012, South London Healthcare Trust had to be placed in administration, following bankruptcy, because PFI repayments amounted to 14% of its income.
  • Under the 2013 Health and Social Care Act, 60% of the NHS budget will be open to for-profit private health providers.
  • Since 2005, Independent Sector Treatment Centres (ISTCs) run by for-profit companies have been awarded contracts in the NHS to deliver minor elective treatment, but are estimated to charge 11.5% more for operations than those carried out by the NHS.