The NHS in England is in crisis. For now the crisis is financial, with providers in deficit by almost £1 billion (€1,4 billion; $1.5 billion) at the end of the first quarter of this financial year. It will soon extend to patient care as waiting times – already under huge pressure – lengthen and providers look for ways to cut costs. Before long, the crisis will become political as the government decides what to do about funding in this parliament.
None of this is surprising. Regular surveys by The King’s Fund of NHS finance directors have shown growing concerns about funding and performance and increasing pessimism about the future. And the Fund’s recent submission to the government’s Spending Review shows how this is already affecting patient care.4 The government can’t claim it wasn’t warned, but it has been much too slow to act.
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