As London grows the financial strains on providing public services are being felt throughout the city as to how to pay for all thats needed. One service that finds itself on the financial ropes is the National Health Service (NHS) which is seeing its deficits increase in its attempts accommodate the citizens. The Guardian reported that the largest hospital trust in the country, Barts Health Trust, reported earlier this year that is would be running £134.9m deficit the largest ever in the NHS. The Trust runs four London hospitals providing service to 2.5 million people and employs 15000 health care providers. Barts is not alone as London North West Healthcare NHS Trust and its four hospitals showed a financial deficit of almost £88.3m also one of the largest in the history of the NHS.
Jeremy Hunt, Health Secretary, stated that the additional funds of £1.8bn that are planned to bolster the NHS England may not be enough:
“The extra funding provided by the government is being used mainly to get the NHS back into financial balance but even this must be in doubt given the scale of the deficits now being reported. 2016/17 will be a make-or-break year for the NHS,” he said.
Prof Chris Ham, chief executive of the independent health think tank, the King’s Fund commented:
“These forecast deficits provide further evidence of the escalating financial crisis in the NHS, as well as the longstanding challenges facing London’s health system. In the case of Barts, these pressures have been exacerbated by the costs of a major PFI (Private Finance Initiative) development.”
Barts reported at its board meeting that £68m is allocated for salaries and wages for its staff per month only to find itself being fined £56m for not providing adequate treatment for A&E (Accidents & Emergencies) who are to be treated within four hours after arrival and scheduled care patients within 18 weeks.
Also projecting higher deficits for providing care, London Northwest Healthcare disclosed that rather than their deficit be near £88.3m it could surpass to £100.9m. All total the deficits of 18 of London’s 37 NHS Trusts will hit almost £582.3m.
Changes in the Health and Social Care Act in 2012 allowed an increase in income by providing private care in NHS hospitals. A Financial Times review reported that overall 18 NHS hospitals with private patient wards had their revenues increase by 9 per cent within a period of 2 years with an increase of patients from abroad.
One well known institution, Kings College Hospital said it was expanding ‘its commercial activities simply to improve the services we provide for NHS patients”.
“For the avoidance of doubt, private patient services at King’s are provided in a separate part of the hospital, so NHS patients are not affected or disadvantaged,” it said.
The report also stated that ‘NHS hospitals have also grown their ties with independent operators, and central London hospitals process a quarter of the capital’s £1.4bn private healthcare market.’ In a partnership Christie NHS Trust in Manchester has teamed with HCA Healthcare for a specialist cancer unit started in 2012 and plans on opening a cancer centre in London at Guys and St Thomas Foundation Trust in two years.
Could this lead to the establishment of more private health provider organizations getting into the NHS network?
Fiona Booth, chief executive of the Association of Independent Healthcare Organisations, said that ‘ all hospital providers, including private patient units at NHS hospitals, were benefiting from an increase in demand from people who want more choice over their healthcare and are willing to pay for it”.
“For NHS hospitals, this additional revenue can be channeled into support for frontline services at a time of growing demand,” she added.
But not all are on board with this new concept. Alan Taman of the group Keep Our NHS Public says he finds this new way of providing patient care ‘alarming’.
He told FT: “The setting up of the market is completely wasteful and at odds with the principles with which the NHS was founded,” he added. “The fact that the law has paved the way for an increase in private provision, which could provide a distraction, is very, very worrying.”
Article by Kevin Murphy: www.kevinmurphy.london