As the NHS turns 75, three major health and care research institutes have issued a stark warning that continued political short-termism will leave the NHS ‘unlikely to reach it’s centenary’.
The Health Foundation, Nuffield Trust and The King’s Fund have written to the leaders of the three largest political parties in England stating: ‘75 years after its creation, the National Health Service is in critical condition. Pressures on services are extreme and public satisfaction is at its lowest since it first began to be tracked 40 years ago. Despite this, public support for the NHS as an institution is rock solid.’
The letter, sent to Rishi Sunak, Keir Starmer and Ed Davey, calls on them to make the upcoming general election a decisive break point, by ending years of short-termism in NHS policy-making and providing services with the investment and reform they need.
The think tanks state that recovering NHS services and reducing waiting times for treatment should rightly be a key priority for any current or future government. But they warn that promising unachievable, unrealistically fast improvements without a long-term plan to address the underlying causes of the current crisis is a strategy ‘doomed to failure’.
The joint letter highlights four key areas where long-term policies coupled with considered investment would help chart a path back to a stronger health service:
invest in the physical resources the NHS needs to do its job including equipment, beds and buildings that are fit for purpose
deliver long overdue reform of adult social care
commit to a cross-government strategy over the course of the next parliament to improve the underlying social and economic conditions that shape the health of the nation
build on the recently published NHS long term workforce plan with sustained commitment to providing the resources it needs to succeed.
The think tank chief executives write:
‘For the public, the NHS remains the jewel in the country’s crown, even if it is losing its shine. The next government will face a choice between providing the investment and reform needed to preserve the NHS for future generations or continuing with short termism and managed decline that gradually erodes the guarantee of safety in place of fear it was designed to create.
‘Persisting with the current addiction to short-termism and eye-catching initiatives will mean that the NHS will fail to adapt to the huge challenges ahead and will be unlikely to reach its centenary. It is time to move away from quick fixes and over-promising what it can deliver and give it the tools it needs.’
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The King's Fund is an independent charity working to improve health and 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 health and care is available to all.