Commenting in response to the Healthcare Commission's annual health check, The King's Fund's chief executive Niall Dickson said:
'The health service has made significant improvements which are undoubtedly due in part to the large increases in funding that have been ploughed into the system in recent years. The extra cash has been used wisely and the NHS is showing better financial management and delivering higher quality care across the board. But too many trusts remain simply adequate - all patients deserve to have the highest standards of health care and many trusts are falling short.
'Today's report shows major achievements in reducing waiting times and faster cancer treatment for patients – these are to be applauded. However, the lack of significant progress on infection control is very disappointing and widening the use of spot checks to primary care, ambulance and mental health trusts is necessary. PCTs in particular still have significant challenges to meet – patients in a third of trusts are not getting the access to GPs that they deserve, and this report once again highlights that patient choice is not universally available.
'But we must remember that today’s report only gives a partial picture – there is always a worry that trusts are responding to the measuring system more than the actual issues. Once Patient Recorded Outcome Measures become available we will get a broader assessment of quality of services in the areas that matter most to patients and their families.'
Commenting specifically on finances, Niall Dickson added: 'A major worry is the small number of trusts that are chronically stuck at the weak end of the spectrum. This calls into question whether the particular problems facing these trusts require a different approach. High quality care often goes with sound financial control and better care is not always more expensive to deliver.
'On the wider economy, we hope the NHS will be cushioned from any immediate negative effects of the economic downturn. But after the timely and important focus that Lord Darzi’s report made on quality of services, the NHS will have to move quickly to prioritise value with much more emphasis on productivity – something the Healthcare Commission does not assess.'
Notes to editors
- For further information or interviews, please contact The King’s Fund media and public relations office on 020 7307 2585, 020 7307 2632 or 020 7307 2581. An ISDN line is available for interviews on 020 7637 0185.
- The King’s Fund seeks to understand how the health system in England can be improved. Using that insight, we help shape policy, transform services and bring about behaviour change. Our work includes research, analysis, developing leaders and improving services. We also offer a wide range of resources to help everyone working in health share knowledge, learning and ideas.