Private Business Intermediaries

Quality of care in the NHS may suffer as a result of financial burdens

28/09/2012 | By Sharmila Chauhan
A recent report states that although the NHS performance is continuing to hold up well, patients may see the quality of care declining as financial pressures increase from next year.

The Kings Fund has just published its quarterly monitoring report on the NHS. The report, which surveyed 45 NHS finance directors, found that:

  • Just under half (40 %) of the finance directors expect the quality of care within the NHS to decline over the next few years.
  • Just under half (19 of the panel) stated that patient care is likely to worsen in the future
  • Some directors  (15%) believe that NHS care had got worse.

Sliding Waiting Times…

Although the NHS has been performing well, with hospital-acquired infections at an all time low, the report highlights that some of these changes are not being sustained. Overall waiting times, which were significantly reduced during 2011, have now slid back to the same levels as in 2010.

In A&E, which showed a drop in waiting times for emergency care  (measured by the number of patients who waited more than 4 hours for care) during the first quarter of the financial year, the figures show that these are actually the highest for this quarter since 2004/5. Unsurprisingly, at least 35 hospitals fail to reach the government’s target which states that no more than 5 per cent of patients should wait more than 4 hours in A&E.

This theme is echoed throughout the NHS with:
  • Almost 1 in 10 (7 per cent) of inpatients waiting more than 4 months for hospital treatment in July, compared with a peak of more than 10 per cent in March 2011
  • Increasing number of patients experiencing so-called ‘trolley waits’ where they waited between 4 and 12 hours before being admitted to a ward.

These findings do not include patients seen in private wings of NHS hospitals or in private treatment centres who are likely to experience a significantly shorter waiting time.

Reduced staff

Part of the reason for an increase in waiting times may be that there is a significant reduction in full time NHS posts. The report highlights that there are 29,000 less full time NHS posts compared to March 2010.

Professor John Appleby, Chief Economist at The King’s Fund said: ‘The NHS continues to perform well in the second year of the productivity challenge. But there are signs that future years will be harder.’