Responding to the National Audit Office's report on NHS financial sustainability, out today
, Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the healthcare sector, said:
"This is a sober assessment. It is a reminder of the huge challenges facing the NHS in England. In spite of promised extra funding, the finances of our health system are in a precarious state.
Hospital and community services are reporting an underlying deficit of £1.85 billion and this, together with rising demand and a workforce crisis, means it will be incredibly difficult to make the service sustainable. The latest planning guidance is an attempt to support organisations move back into balance, but this will take time.
The extra money from the government is of course welcome but as the NAO highlights, it does not cover key areas of health spending such as education, public health and capital investment. As we have also repeatedly pointed out, the NAO says this could affect the NHS's ability to deliver the priorities of the long-term plan. The same is true of social care funding.
All this says the NHS Long Term Plan is just part of the story – to determine whether it can be delivered we need to know the fate of those other vital areas of spending and it is regrettable that they have been delayed until the spending review which will not kick in until 2020.