Debate opens on NHS £30bn funding gap

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Sir David Nicholson 2 (resized)

The public, healthcare professionals and politicians have been invited to have their say on how the NHS can meet future challenges – including an expected funding gap of £30bn by 2021.

The NHS belongs to the people: a call to action, published by NHS England, outlines the rising demand on services and the need to introduce innovative technology against a backdrop of financial pressure.

Sir David Nicholson, Chief Executive of NHS England, said the NHS must “embrace new ways of working” but ruled out charging for the use of services in the future.

If the NHS continues to receive flat funding between now and 2020/21 – and services are delivered in the same way – it will create a huge £30bn funding gap, the document says.

The publication also reveals the challenges the NHS currently faces. Presently, around a million people are treated by the health service every three days. Additionally, the NHS faces increasing demand due to an ageing population and a further 15 million living with a long-term condition – accounting for 50% of GP appointments and 70% of hospital bed days.

“We are setting all this out today – including the funding gap – to encourage the public and doctors and politicians to have an honest and realistic debate about how they want their local NHS to be shaped,” said Sir David Nicholson. “With the new independence of NHS England and the establishment of GP-led commissioners, we can find local answers to meet these challenges.

The NHS this week celebrated its 65th birthday and Sir David insists the health service will not change its ethos on providing free care at the point of need and delivery.

“The NHS has stayed true to this aim and to do so in the future, we must embrace new ways of working,” he said. “Too often, the answers are to reduce the offer to patients or charge for services. That is not the ethos of the NHS and I am clear that our future must be about changing, not charging. To do so we must make bold, clinically-led changes to how NHS services are delivered over the next couple of years. We are facing demands, opportunities and investment unimaginable when the NHS was created in 1948.”

The ABPI welcomed the opportunity to discuss innovative waves in which it can help “guarantee long term economic viability” for the NHS. “The effective use of modern medicines has a vital role to play in a more efficient and effective NHS,” said Stephen Whitehead, Chief Executive. “By investing in innovative treatments, we can keep people healthier for longer in their own homes and thereby significantly improve their quality of life, whilst minimising the need for expensive hospital care.”