PRESS STATEMENT: Urgent action must be taken to head off NHS hospitals’ financial crisis

The Hospital Consultants & Specialists Association, the only TUC-affiliated professional association and trade union dedicated solely to hospital doctors, has warned that patient safety is at risk if urgent action is not taken to prevent NHS financial problems "spiralling out of control" in a botched rush for seven-day services.

It has issued the warning after MPs on the Public Accounts Committee reported that policy-makers are failing to consider the cost and staffing impact of the plans and burdening hospitals with demands for unrealistic efficiency savings.

HCSA President Professor Ross Welch said: “This report is a damning indictment on the standard of workforce and financial management of the NHS, from the very top at the Department of Health downwards, threatening real patient harm.

“The Commons committee raises serious questions over the impact of ‘unrealistic’ financial efficiency targets, and therefore by extension the ability of NHS trusts to deliver savings on which recent funding government packages have been based.

“The HCSA believes that decisive action is now required to ensure that these funding problems do not spiral further out of control.

“This must involve a proper assessment of the headcount required to deliver safe services, and a frank and honest conversation between policy-makers and NHS trusts about the level of financing required, and whether efficiencies can realistically be achieved without compromising on patient safety and staff well-being.”

HCSA General Secretary Eddie Saville said: “Senior hospital doctors within the Hospital Consultants & Specialists Association remain supportive in principle of a seven-day health service, so we welcome this carefully considered report by the Commons Public Account Committee, which addresses concerns about clinical care in an honest and open manner.

“HCSA has always advocated the highest standards of patient care, grounded in a safe, effectively co-ordinated and adequately funded service.

“Therefore MPs’ suggestion that there is a lack of sufficient research over the impact of this landmark government policy – going so far as to say that ‘no coherent attempt has been made to assess the headcount implications’ of policy – will be of great concern to hospital doctors.”