The public deserves “honesty, realism and transparency” about what the NHS can realistically deliver given the lack of funding available and no firm decisions on social care, a new report has said.
The study by NHS Providers – the membership organisation for acute hospitals, community, mental health and ambulance services – found that the majority (91%) of trust leaders do not feel there has been enough public debate about the challenges and opportunities facing the health service and its long-term future.
Meanwhile, 90% of trust leaders are worried about a lack of investment in social care in their area and 72% are concerned about whether their trust can make the capital investment needed to maintain and modernise the NHS estate and equipment.
This is against a backdrop of 100,000 staff vacancies, a £6bn maintenance backlog, a £4bn provider sector financial deficit and no firm decisions on the future of social care and public health.
NHS Providers is warning that a failure to present the public with the true scale of the challenges facing the NHS risks putting public faith in the health service ‘on the line’.
Commenting on the report, Chris Hopson, NHS Providers chief executive,
said: “It’s an uncomfortable debate to have…But we need greater realism
about how much the NHS can deliver, and how quickly, given where we currently are
and the challenges we face.
“Unless we level with the public about how long it will take to recover from where we are and how quickly we can deliver the NHS long term plan, public commitment to the NHS is on the line. NHS leaders are sending a clear signal that we need an honest, realistic and transparent view of the difficult choices and challenges – as well as the exciting opportunities – that lie ahead.”
Commenting on the report, UNISON head of health Sara Gorton said:“The report highlights the devastating impact of short-term planning and long-term underinvestment in health and social care. It lays bare the damaging effect on patients and staff.
“When will the government admit that health and social care services are on their knees and take this national emergency seriously?
“Boris Johnson must stop this shameful decline by restoring funding to pre-austerity levels if the NHS as we know it is to survive.”