Responding to this week’s announcements on the NHS by the Conservative Party at its annual conference, Chris Ham, Chief Executive of The King’s Fund, said:
‘At last senior politicians are beginning to debate the very significant challenges facing the NHS. We now wait to hear from the Liberal Democrats next week and hope this signals the start of an open and honest debate about how to address these challenges in the run-up to the election and beyond.
‘However, as they stand, neither Labour nor the Conservatives have addressed the scale of the funding challenge facing the NHS. In the short term, more money is needed to support NHS organisations struggling as a result of the unprecedented pressures on their budgets and meet the costs of essential changes to services. While there is still scope to improve productivity, unless this funding is found, patients will bear the cost as staff numbers are cut, waiting times rise and quality of care deteriorates.
‘In the long term, as the Barker Commission has set out, a new settlement is needed that puts health and social care on a sustainable footing. This means ending the historic divide between the two systems and facing up to hard choices about how to pay for this.
‘The focus this week on general practice is very positive, and we welcome the commitment to extend opening hours to more GP surgeries. What is needed now is a detailed debate about how primary care is organised. While the pressures they are under should not be under-estimated, GPs need to work differently to deliver a wider range of services to larger numbers of patients.’
Notes to editors:
The King's Fund is an independent charity working to improve health and health care in England. We help to shape policy and practice through research and analysis; develop individuals, teams and organisations; promote understanding of the health and social care system; and bring people together to learn, share knowledge and debate. Our vision is that the best possible care is available to all.
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