SOUTH Warwickshire Foundation Trust chief executive Glen Burley is part of a group of NHS staff calling on government to better fund the NHS and improve care.
Here he writes for The Observer explaining what changes need to be made to ‘rebuild the NHS’.
Time to rebuild our NHS and create a 21st century health service
EVERY day, South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust (SWFT) treats approximately 4,360 patients – a small proportion of the million seen by the NHS every 36 hours. In the vast majority of cases, the care they receive is exceptional. But in recent years, the ability of NHS professionals to provide the standard of care they strive to deliver has become harder.
Some of these challenges are well known – continued financial pressure, shortages of doctors and nurses, an ageing population. The government made an important and welcome commitment last year to increase the NHS’ day-to-day spending to help meet these challenges. But the capital budget, which pays for vital things the NHS needs to function – like buildings, equipment and infrastructure, remains untouched.
Paying for more doctors and nurses, newer treatments and more appointments and operations is vital. But what’s the point if NHS staff are trying to deliver care in buildings with leaky roofs and broken plumbing? If diagnostic tests and scans are being performed with outdated equipment? If patients with serious mental health conditions are being treated on wards built more than 175 years ago? If the kit for paramedics is not up to date?
The NHS buildings and equipment budget has been relentlessly squeezed year after year. Over the last five years we’ve had to transfer nearly £5billion of that money to prop up day to day spending. The NHS now has a maintenance backlog of £6billion, with £3billion of it safety critical. Our NHS estate is crumbling.
The government has begun to recognise this – recently deciding to scrape the request that all trusts cut back their capital spending plans by 20 per cent this year. There’s been a small amount of extra funding allocated to 20 hospital upgrades. But, as health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said when the funding was announced, this can only be the start.
That is why, together with my colleagues across the NHS, we are calling on politicians to help us rebuild our NHS and create a 21st century health service with a properly-funded and well-designed system of capital funding.
The campaign is calling for three things. First, we need the government to set a multi-year capital budget for the NHS, which allows us to plan for the future and transform our services and equipment. Second, we need the government to bring the NHS’ capital funding into lines with comparable countries. Because the NHS is a universal public service, increasing NHS capital budgets has the added benefit of bringing much needed investment and jobs to the local area. And third, we need the government to ensure the money gets to where it is needed on the frontline.
We need to rebuild our NHS and give those that look after our health 24/7 the tools to create the 21st century health service that our patients and service users expect, and that we can all be proud of.