Earlier this month here in Sheffield some eighty inspectors from the Care and Quality Commission conducted a week long assessment of the Sheffield NHS Foundation Trust, where I am proud to be a Governor.
This inspection is no small undertaking given the size of our Trust. Encompassing five hospitals the Sheffield NHS Foundation Trust employs some 16,000 people and turns-over an annual budget of £1 billion. Indeed, if you start to take a close look at the financials of the Trust the figures are really quite eye-watering.
Like most acute hospital trusts nationally the Sheffield NHS Foundation Trust is predicted to make a deficit this year. A small deficit when compared to our annual budget but a deficit nevertheless. And this deficit is occurring in a hugely well-run trust who without exception since its establishment has always been able to balance the books.
I was rather taken aback when researching this piece to see that 131 out of 138 acute hospital trusts will make a deficit this year with a predicated shortfall nationally in the region of £1.6billion. Clearly something will need to give and it is no doubt good news that Government has agreed to put an extra £8 billion of ‘new’ monies into the NHS over the course of this Parliament. As I understand it some £3.8 billion of these monies will be ‘front-ended’ for immediate use to help plug this sizable national shortfall.
But the question has to be asked – how can the NHS sustain such current shortfalls in a climate where we have an ever ageing and ever expanding population, which will no doubt create even further cost year on year ?
The answer is – it cannot.
So what can we do - how can we achieve greater efficiencies whilst further driving up standards of quality and care for all patients – free at the point of delivery.
Given the size of our NHS there are of course no easy answers. But time and time again I see how poorly like-minded publicly funded care providers interface and joint work as they attempt to offer so-called ‘seemless’ care to patients locally.
As such I firmly believe that there needs to be sub-regional pooling into one over-arching organisation all public monies related to care.
This sub-regional overarching ‘care’ body would then deal directly with all major care providers locally - hospital trusts, local authorities, social services, charitable organisations – working hard to help all such providers tailor their care services together.
Only such a radical approach will break down barriers, drive standards of care forward, whilst also making sure that best value for money and greater efficiency is achieved for the taxpayer.
Dramatic public sector reform can no doubt secure the future of our NHS and better provide care for all people in Britain today.
Only time will tell whether our politicians are prepared to think outside of the box and radically as we look to provide new care models that provide the very best public services for the monies available.
Dr Spencer Pitfield is Chairman of Conservative Trade Unionists and is on the board of Conservative Way Forward. He was previously Chairman of the Conservative Policy Forum.
Follow him on Twitter