BMJ 2015;350:h2577 doi: 10.1136/bmj.h2577 (Published 12 May 2015)
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NEWS Tackle shortfall in NHS funding, healthcare leaders tell health secretary Gareth Iacobucci The BMJ
Healthcare leaders have urged the returning health secretary for England, Jeremy Hunt, to urgently prioritise investment in the NHS to safeguard its future.
Prime Minister David Cameron this week reappointed Hunt to his cabinet after the Conservative Party’s victory in last week’s UK general election, with Hunt to continue in the role he has held since replacing Andrew Lansley in September 2012. Cameron made two new appointments to the Department of Health, with Ben Gummer replacing Dan Poulter as undersecretary of state for health and Alistair Burt replacing the departing Liberal Democrat minister for care and support, Norman Lamb.
As The BMJ went to press the public health minister, Jane Ellison, minister for health quality, Lord Howe, and life sciences minister, George Freeman, looked set to remain in their roles at the department. In a statement released after his reappointment Hunt said, “My biggest priority now is to transform care outside hospitals—just as we have dramatically improved the quality of care inside hospitals in the last few years. All of us want every single older and vulnerable person to be treated with the highest standards of care, so we need a step change in services offered through GP surgeries, community care, and social care.” The BMA urged Hunt to focus on six key priorities: to tackle the current shortfall in funding; remove market competition in healthcare; increase numbers of doctors and retain and value them; maintain safeguards for patients and doctors; restore investment in general practice; and prioritise health and wellbeing and the prevention of ill health.
Mark Porter, chairman of the BMA Council, said, “With polling day behind us, the government must face up to the stark reality of the challenges facing the NHS. “It is vital that the health secretary takes on board the views of doctors and works with the BMA for the benefit of the NHS and the patients that it serves.”
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Chris Ham, chief executive of the health policy think tank the King’s Fund, said that Hunt’s reappointment would offer “welcome continuity as the NHS enters one of the most challenging periods in its history.” But he warned that Hunt must ensure that the NHS was properly funded in the short and the long term.
Ham said, “His first priority must be to plug the growing black hole in NHS finances by securing additional funding for the current financial year. “Looking beyond this, the government must use the spending review later this year to put the NHS on a sustainable financial footing for the rest of the parliament. The additional £8bn [€11bn; $12.4bn] a year by 2020 pledged in the Conservative manifesto is welcome but is the bare minimum needed to maintain standards of care and will not pay for new initiatives such as seven day working. More money will also be needed for social care.”
Rob Webster, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, the body that represents health service commissioners and providers in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, said he hoped that Hunt’s reappointment would provide much needed “stability in political leadership.” “The political will to support the implementation of [NHS England’s] Five Year Forward View, the financial support for the NHS, and the consequential changes in the way in which care is delivered will be high on the agenda,” he said.
thebmj.com Editorials: Prospects for the NHS in England in the next parliament (BMJ 2015;350:h2541, doi:10.1136/bmj.h2541); A letter to the next secretary of state for health (BMJ 2015;350:h2296; doi:10.1136/ bmj.h2296) For more from The BMJ on the UK general election go to bmj.co/election. Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h2577 © BMJ Publishing Group Ltd 2015