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What is the impact of the General Election result on NHS finances?

Tomorrow UK voters will go to the ballot box to vote in what the polls suggest, will be a close election race with multiple possibilities for which party or parties will form the next government.  

 

Living in a marginal constituency where the result could sway either way, I have been bombarded by leaflets, activists pinning me down at the train station and yesterday, Boris was in town.  We are told by the media that the NHS is a key feature of the election, but it is when you read the election literature or speak to the activists, the pivotal impact of the NHS in the general election becomes clear.

For most, the NHS is very personal and emotive. Nearly all of us voting will have had first-hand experiences of the NHS, be it at the dentist, a hospital visit or a GP consultation. Whilst much of the election campaign has focused on local hospital issues in my constituency, I’m particularly interested in the political parties’ election manifestos and their promises of additional funding for the NHS.   

There have been many excellent blogs on the subject recently. Chris Appleby of the King’s Fund wrote on manifesto pledges and the impact of extra money for the NHS. It’s well worth a read. Two key points that he raises are:  

  1. Even by the most generous of future funding assumptions (by the Tories and Lib Dems, no less) there is a £22 billion shortfall which will need to be made up through increased productivity. 
  2. There is the question of what to do about the existing parlous state of NHS finances, which the political parties have largely ignored.  

Are these productivity gains achievable?  Based on the King’s Fund Quarterly Monitoring Report from April 2015, 75 per cent of NHS Trust Directors of Finance and two thirds of finance leads within commissioning felt there was a high or very high risk of not achieving the 2 to 3 percent year on year efficiency targets set within the NHS Five Year Forward View.  

Interim Managers have asked me frequently over the last few months what I think the election result will mean for the NHS and for the NHS finances. We discussed this recently at our Interim Partners Director’s Dinner. It was a fantastic night and I heard some contrasting and well-argued views from some highly experienced and talented NHS interim managers.  

My own view, and what I believe to be the most straightforward answer, is: whatever the general election result, in the short run the answer is “more of the same”.  I don’t think an extra £8billion will be enough and efficiency gains take time to action and to generate tangible results. We already have the most efficient health service in the world based on the Commonwealth Fund’s assessment last year.    

Do you think the efficiency targets set out within the NHS Five Year Forward View are achievable?  What do you think the impact of the general election will mean for the NHS?  As always, I’d be delighted to hear your views.   

David Rason is the Consultant for Healthcare at Interim Partners. 

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