Responding to the launch of the comprehensive spending review (CSR) process, Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the healthcare sector, said:
“The CSR will decide whether the NHS and care sectors will or will not be able to deliver over the next few years. And that will affect all our futures, including that of the present UK government.
“In every developed nation the demands and cost of healthcare is increasing and that requires radical reform in the way services are delivered, as well as significant and sustained extra funding. The one cannot happen without the other.
“We also need a change of mindset – health must no longer be seen just as a cost for society, but like education it needs to be viewed as an investment we must make if we are to be a productive and effective economy.
“And this will be one of the toughest periods in the history of the NHS.
“The ongoing presence of the virus means productivity could be down to 60% of normal for some time. We have a treatment backlog from the lockdown pause which will mean long waits for routine treatment we have not seen for more than 20 years. And we have thousands more who have not been diagnosed or treated for cancer, strokes and a host of other conditions. The toll on mental health meanwhile is, as yet uncalculated and unseen, but we know it will be very great.
“Add to all this the plight of social care which has been cruelly exposed by the pandemic. While we will make the overwhelming case for more NHS funding, we know that will not be enough if social care is once again neglected.
“As we head for winter, given all that is going on, we desperately need realistic expectations from politicians and the public about what the caring service can achieve.
“At the same time, with the CSR on the horizon we also need a national debate about the longer term, what we should expect from our health and care services and what we are willing to pay for.”