NHS Providers comment following this week's NHS announcements

11 August 2019

Reflecting on the current state of the National Health Service after a week with three NHS announcements from the new government, the chief executive of NHS Providers, Chris Hopson, said:

“Relentlessly rising demand and nine years of austerity have left the NHS with a range of difficult challenges. More than 100,000 staff vacancies, a £6bn maintenance backlog, the longest surgical waiting list in more than a decade and a new low in A&E performance show how difficult life is for the NHS frontline at the moment. Trusts are seeing record levels of demand – for example 4% more people coming to A&E year on year. But however hard frontline staff work, they just can’t seem to keep up.

More than 100,000 staff vacancies, a £6bn maintenance backlog, the longest surgical waiting list in more than a decade and a new low in A&E performance show how difficult life is for the NHS frontline at the moment.

Chris Hopson    Chief Executive

“Trust leaders have welcomed the new government’s announcements this week, as they have made a good start on two of the most immediate problems – the need to increase capital funding and solve long standing pension issues. There is a new energy and pace to address these issues. Trust leaders also welcomed the extra investment in the new technology that has the potential to help transform patient care.

Trust leaders have welcomed the new government’s announcements this week, as they have made a good start on two of the most immediate problems – the need to increase capital funding and solve long standing pension issues.

Chris Hopson    Chief Executive

“But it’s only a start – so much more is needed, on these and other issues. We need a multi year capital funding settlement to rebuild the NHS and create the 21st century health service set out in NHS long term plan. We need to make sure any pensions solution covers all staff, not just senior doctors. We need long term solutions to the crisis in social care and the NHS’s current workforce shortages.

“Looking to the next few months, trust leaders are concerned about the risks of a 'no deal' Brexit because so many of these risks are beyond their control. They are worried they will be blamed if anything goes wrong. They need the government to ensure continuity of supply for medicines and medical equipment; to guarantee food supply; to ensure staff, ambulances and patients can move freely in areas likely to be facing transport logjams like Kent. They need certainty on what treatments EU citizens will be entitled to; what EU professional qualifications can be recognised; and how they will be able to employ sufficient staff from the EU and overseas. These are all things that only the government can do. There’s obviously a particular risk if a 'no deal' Brexit coincides with what frontline leaders are already expecting will be a very difficult winter, especially if there is a flu outbreak.

Looking to the next few months, trust leaders are concerned about the risks of a 'no deal' Brexit because so many of these risks are beyond their control.

Chris Hopson    Chief Executive

“Trust leaders are also worried about the constant, relentless, pressure the NHS is currently under and the impact this is having on staff. The NHS is reliant on the discretionary effort and goodwill of its staff – 58% of NHS staff say they work additional unpaid hours on a weekly basis. But trust leaders report that staff are increasingly tired and simply unable to give the level of discretionary effort required to meet current demand. Running the NHS in the red zone like this, day in day out, is just not sustainable and this is clearly now showing in current levels of performance."

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