The £20bn-a-year funding boost announced by Theresa May ahead of the NHS’ 70th anniversary will not be enough to solve the immediate financial pressures in the NHS that harm patient care and leave healthcare staff ‘run ragged’, the chair of BMA Council has warned.
In his keynote address at the BMA’s annual representative meeting (ARM), Dr Chaand Nagpaul welcomed the ‘belated and desperately needed announcement after years of denial’.
But he warned that the current problems in the NHS could not be resolved immediately because the health service had been ‘systematically starved of resources’ for too long.
Dr Nagpaul’s views have been endorsed by Sir Amyas Morse, the head of Whitehall’s spending watchdog, the National Audit Office. He said the NHS would require far greater financial support if it is to meet the needs of a changing population.
Earlier this month, May claimed the £20bn a year increase in NHS funding by 2023-24, would pay for ‘thousands more doctors and nurses’, and would also cut cancer deaths and improve mental health services.
Initial suggestions that the increase would be funded from the ‘Brexit dividend’ were quickly dismissed, and the Government admitted the extra funding would have to come from general taxation.
But, interviewed in The Guardian, Morse said: ‘The funding increases we have heard about are very much welcome but are just in healthcare,’ he said. ‘It is quite clear that if you don’t have a balance of capabilities between social care and healthcare, you are just going to be tipping people from one to the other.’
‘Nobody is pretending it is doing more than sustaining the current services,’ he added.
Also addressing the ARM, GPs committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey warned that the foundation of general practice on which the NHS depends ‘has serious structural faults’. He said ‘the invaluable footing that primary care provides for the health service’ was at risk as GPs report unmanageable workload pressures, hundreds of practices close and doctors leave the profession.
He said: ‘For 70 years general practice has been where the vast majority of patient contacts have occurred, where generation after generation have been looked after by GPs and their teams. We’ve managed demand, directed patients to the right specialist service, been innovative in care pathway design, and above all managed clinical risk on behalf of the NHS as a whole.
‘But when nearly 40% of GPs intend to quit direct patient care in the next 5 years, over 90% are reporting considerable or high workload pressures, when instead of gaining an additional 5,000 GPs, we’ve lost over 1,000, we know that the foundation of general practice is cracking.’