Reassuring to hear Health Secretary acknowledge the scale of the financial challenge ahead for the NHS says The King's Fund

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Responding to Secretary of State for Health Andy Burnham's speech to The King's Fund this morning, the Fund's chief executive Niall Dickson said:

'Not before time the government has acknowledged the scale of the task ahead for the health service in the future public spending squeeze. This is without doubt the most significant leadership challenge facing the NHS in the coming years. Even if the NHS does better than other areas of public spending, it will be a real struggle to protect and develop high-quality care.

'The Health Secretary is right to say that all political parties need to engage in an adult discourse about the future of the NHS. Given the impending general election, this will certainly be a challenge. We welcome his commitment to support local leaders in the NHS who are redesigning services – the shape of health care services does have to change and it will require commitment and determination to make this transformation. In some cases this will mean fewer hospital beds and more care in the community, in others more concentration of services in specialist centres.

'The commitment to reward quality instead of just paying for volume of work is a good move, but care will have to be taken on how it is introduced to ensure it encourages better performance from all providers and does not, for instance, hamper poorer performing hospitals’ ability to progress.'

On the plan to make it easier for patients to choose their GP, Niall Dickson said:

'The vast majority of patients are more than happy with their GP, but the restriction on where they can register is an anachronism and the government is right to sweep it away. There are details to be worked out, but it should not be impossible.'

Notes to editors

  1. For further information or interviews, please contact The King’s Fund press and public affairs office on 020 7307 2585, 020 7307 2632 or 020 7307 2581. An ISDN line is available for interviews on 020 7637 0185.
  2. The King’s Fund is a charity that seeks to understand how the health system in England can be improved. Using that insight, we help to shape policy, transform services and bring about behaviour change. Our work includes research, analysis, leadership development and service improvement. We also offer a wide range of resources to help everyone working in health to share knowledge, learning and ideas.