HCSA, the professional association and trade union for all hospital doctors, has today urged guarantees that any additional NHS funding is spent on front-line services rather than “additional layers of bureaucracy”.
Commenting on reports that the cash will be tied to a new NHS forward plan, HCSA President Professor Ross Welch said: “This 10-year funding plan is a welcome change in direction, but there is understandable scepticism among hospital doctors over how far the money will go, where it will be targeted, and what strings may be attached.
“Staff vacancy levels are high and morale is low following years of pay decline, while bed numbers are insufficient to meet current demographic challenges, let alone a predicted 1.5 million more over-75s within 10 years.
“HCSA is therefore seeking guarantees that funding increases will be ploughed into front-line and workforce budgets, not squandered on additional layers of bureaucracy.
“Any forward plan should acknowledge that a safe, successful NHS requires adequate medical staff and is dependent on the commitment and skill of our health professionals.
“At a real-terms average of 3.4 per cent a year, if delivered these funding pledges will see NHS finances on an upward trajectory but with rises slightly below the historical average. This is despite an aging population and the knock-on effect of several years of slow or no budget rises.
“Hospital finances are severely stretched due to efficiencies demanded by 2020 of £22bn a year, based on year-on-year savings at a rate never achieved in NHS history.
“The savings drive has placed arbitrary caps on front-line budgets with insufficient consideration of local clinical demand. This has created a sense of crisis, with deficits rising and a growing number of Trusts entering special measures.
“With health think tanks predicting the need for a 4 per cent increase, HCSA remains to be convinced that this package will stabilise health services. However, we will do our utmost to support positive steps to address the many challenges our NHS faces.”