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Govt hits back at 'pessimistic' NHS finance report

The Government has dismissed a bleak report into NHS finances and insisted it has spent enough on the health service to make it "sustainable in the long-term".

A Department of Health spokeswoman said:

Pessimistic predictions of this type are nothing new, but we know that the NHS remains stable.

Some parts of the system are under pressure due to an unprecedented rise in demand - which is why we have taken tough decisions to increase the NHS budget by £12.7 billion over this Parliament, and are ensuring the NHS is sustainable in the long-term.

– A Department of Health spokeswoman

NHS finance report finds 'service under huge pressure'

A look into NHS finances has found a "service under huge pressure", according to one of the report authors.

John Appleby, chief economist at the think-tank, explained:

Our latest quarterly report paints a picture of a service under huge pressure, with cracks beginning to appear in NHS performance.

It once again underlines the need for new funding if services are to be maintained.

The increase in the nursing workforce signals a very welcome commitment to improving care, although it remains to be seen whether hospitals will be able to sustain current staffing levels when money becomes tighter later in the year.

The disparity in the plans of providers and commissioners points to a worrying mismatch between activity and funding, which could have serious financial consequences.

– John Appleby


NHS finances 'stretched to the limit'

The NHS is facing a funding crisis after an influential think tank found national healthcare budgets were "stretched to the limit".

Read: NHS 'to pay extra £4bn a year' for long-term conditions

One quarter of health trusts expect to overspend this year, the report said. Credit: PA

The King's Fund warned of "huge pressures" on NHS budgets after one after of finance directors for hospital trusts admitted they expected to overspend this year.

The think tank said the future for NHS finances looked bleak- some 85% of the 73 finance directors polled saying they were fairly or very pessimistic about money for the next year.

Poor finances were starting to have a detrimental effect on the quality of healthcare provided, with "cracks beginning to appear" in performance.

A number of waiting time targets have been missed and the number of people on waiting lists for treatment in hospital is now at its highest level for six years, the report states.

Read: Patients 'at risk' from overworked doctors

Patients given poor care 'should have probe powers'

Hospital patients in England should be given the power to prompt an investigation into whether there are enough staff on their ward, new NHS guidance suggests.

The current cost for nursing staff in acute wards is an estimated £4 billion Credit: Press Association

Patients who are given sub-standard care should be able to alert ward managers which should prompt a probe into whether there are a safe number of staff working on the ward, according to the National Institute for Health And Care Excellence (Nice).

The organisation has identified a number of so-called 'red flags' which highlight that care could be compromised. If a red flag is identified by a patient or member of staff, the new advice from the NHS is to take action immediately.

Situations which would constitute a red flag include, patients not being helped on a visit to the bathroom, patients not receiving their medication or delays of 30 minutes or more in providing pain relief.

Read: NHS given guidelines on minimum nursing numbers.

Nursing guidelines 'major step forward for NHS safety'

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has praised the latest guidelines from NICE, which provides recommendations for the minimum amount of nurses that should be working on a hospital ward.

This is a major step forward for NHS safety. As a result of this new guidance the NHS will be able to give safer care and patients can have confidence that the right number of nursing staff are on duty.

It will also help hospitals to balance their books - for every fall avoided because a nurse was on hand to help, Nice estimates another £1,400 is saved.

Recent years have seen a big jump in nursing numbers in hospital wards, with 6,200 more nurses since 2010. Today's guidance will help the NHS use staff as effectively as possible.

– Jeremy Hunt, Health Secretary

NICE: Safe staffing 'more complex than single ratio'

Providing safe healthcare is "more complex" than setting a single ratio dictating how many patients should be assigned to each nurse, said the organisation behind NHS guidelines.

Professor Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive at NICE said:

Safe staffing is more complex than setting a single ratio. The emphasis should not just be on the available number of staff, it should be on delivering safe patient care and making sure that hospital management and nursing staff are absolutely clear on best practice to do this.

The reason why there is no single one-to-eight figure is because that will be seen as the figure that should be applied across all wards where we know that one to eight is not going to be enough in many scenarios.

A single figure is not appropriate if we want to deliver the right level of care for patients.

– Proffessor Leng


NHS wards 'should have two working nurses at all times'

NHS wards should have two trained nurses working on them at all times if patients are to be looked after properly, according to fresh guidelines published by the National Institute for Health And Care Excellence (NICE).

Read: NHS will be 'forced to rely on more agency nurses'

Every ward needs a minimum of two qualified nurses, NICE said. Credit: PA

However, NICE stopped short of proposing a minimum for all NHS hospitals to adopt and instead said staff numbers were part of a series of "red flags" patients' relatives should watch out for.

These include patients not being helped on a visit to the bathroom, not receiving their medication or delays of 30 minutes or more in providing pain relief.

NICE also warned a shortfall of 25% of the nurses normally needed for a shift should serve as a red flag to relatives.

If these red flag events are highlighted by a patient or staff member then the nurse in charge of the ward should act "immediately" to ensure that there are enough staff on the ward, Nice said.

Read: NHS watchdog warns over nurse-patient ratios

Councils call for action fund to tackle obesity

Councils in England and Wales are calling for existing taxes on unhealthy food to be channeled into a fund to fight obesity.

Councils are calling for an "obesity action fund".
Councils are calling for an "obesity action fund". Credit: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

The Local Government Association (LGA), which last year took over responsibility for public health, says a fifth of current VAT on fast food, soft drinks and confectionery should be given to local authorities to fight the condition.

They aim to create an "obesity action fund" of £1 billion that the organisation says could "help transform the lives of three-and-a-half million overweight or obese children in this country".

The LGA says health problems associated with obesity cost the NHS £1 million an hour - 10% of its annual budget.

Report: NHS Trusts 'more than £100m' in the red

The Nuffield Trust said there are an increasing number of NHS trusts in deficit even with hundreds of millions of pounds of additional funding.

Provisional data for 2013/14 suggested that trusts were in a net overall deficit of more than £100 million compared with an overall surplus of £383 million the previous year, it said. And 66 trusts across the country were now in deficit compared to 45 in 2012/13.

Report: NHS Trusts 'more than £100 million' in the red Credit: PA

Andy McKeon, Nuffield Trust senior policy fellow, said: "[The NHS] has now reached a tipping point. Our analysis shows just how poorly placed it is to cope with the squeeze still to come."

But Health Minister Lord Howe said: "These predictions are pessimistic and paint an unrealistic picture... we have taken tough decisions to increase the NHS budget by £12.7 billion over this Parliament."

Read: NHS 'no longer free in 10 years'

Nuffield Trust: 'NHS no long free in 10 years'

An influential think tank has said that the NHS in England could be in a funding crisis before the next general election. The Nuffield Trust said accounts from 2013/14 show that the system is under "severe financial pressure"

Nuffield Trust: 'NHS no long free in 10 years' Credit: PA

The independent health charity's latest report Into the Red states the financial strength of NHS trusts is "weak and declining". Meanwhile, more than 100 health and social care leaders raised concerns about the future sustainability of the health and social care systems.

Two-thirds of those polled by the Nuffield Trust said they felt that NHS providers would have to go into deficit in order to provide a high-quality service. And half said they believed the health service would no longer be free at the point of use in a decade.

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