The Point of Care programme works with staff at all levels of the NHS to improve both patients' and staff experiences of care. The staff we have spoken to are fully aware of the financial challenge that lies ahead, and the need to deliver better quality of care through productivity and efficiency improvements in the future. But many are also telling us that the challenge is now, and that it is already affecting frontline NHS services.
Some NHS staff we have spoken to are genuinely puzzled by claims that frontline NHS services have so far been protected from the financial squeeze. This confusion has been expressed to me from different levels within the NHS organisation – directors to frontline staff. So how does the rhetoric square with the reality of some NHS staff who are already hearing about plans to cut posts and reduce services?
The picture undoubtedly varies from organisation to organisation, and nationally times are tough for hospitals, with the transfer of care into community and primary care settings, growing demand, changing population and increasing expectations. In addition to this the money paid to hospitals by primary care trusts, through the tariff, is being squeezed tighter and tighter.
Good and open communication between NHS staff, and between staff and patients, is vital to delivering high-quality care to patients and ensuring that services are well-run.
In such difficult times, it is even more important for policy-makers and NHS leaders to be clear in communicating to frontline NHS staff about what is being asked for, and the balance between cash releasing and productivity gains. After all, we are all in this together, and it is NHS staff who will deliver the improved quality and productivity that will be needed if the NHS is to weather the storm.
Whether the financial squeeze is with us already, or a year or two away, honest conversations with staff and the public will be needed.