Are NHS savings lowering the quality of care?

18th February 2013 by Rosie Gollancz

Healthcare

NHS reform

Photo credit: Seattle Municipal Archives

The findings of the latest quarterly report on healthcare in the UK raise debate over how changes in the NHS may affect patients.

The report was published by The King’s Fund, who are monitoring the UK healthcare giant as it works hard to create savings of ¬£20 billion whilst maintaining service levels. This overwhelming task remains the responsibility of finance directors in the NHS, each of whom governs the budget of a single service-providing trust.

Of the 143 finance directors currently employed in the NHS, 48 participated in the online survey commissioned by The King’s Fund. The results seem to suggest that finance directors have, over the past quarter, become increasingly pessimistic about the economic future of the trusts they control. In fact, two-thirds of those surveyed expect the financial situation to get worse in the next year.

Even more worrying is the one third of finance directors who felt the quality of care under their jurisdiction had worsened, supporting existing doubts that the reform has the potential to succeed without damaging the quality of service provided by the NHS.

As all of the surveyed directors govern secondary trusts it is only the quality of secondary care that is questioned here. However, this is unlikely to provide much comfort to the hundreds of thousands of people seeking specialist care each year:

Our survey confirms previous evidence that the transferred NHS money is being used to promote the closer integration of care and in specific services (…) that benefit both the NHS and social care systems. But in many cases it is being used to offset general service pressures and councils are finding it much harder to find savings that do not impact on the quality or quantity of care.

Download the full report from The King’s Fund here: TKF (2013). How is the health and social care system performing? Quarterly Monitoring Report February 2013.

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