On the 70thanniversary of the NHS the organisation that represents Trusts, NHS Providers, has warned that £18 billion is needed over the next three years to stand still by getting on top of targets, writes John Whelan for Hospital Times. The analysis says that this will be needed to deal with a maintenance backlog and improving staffing levels.

NHS Providers says bleakly: “Filling the gaps that have opened up after almost a decade of austerity will account for much if not most of the money recently announced by the Prime Minister. Theresa May announced in June that the NHS would receive a 3.4 per cent funding rise over five years, equivalent to £20 billion a year by 2023. She wants the NHS to come up with its own 10-year long-term plan for transforming the use of IT, integrating health and social care, and improving outcomes for cancer and mental health patients. This is on top of fixing a maintenance backlog and introducing further efficiency savings.

NHS Providers analysed the spending required to meet targets and putting spending on a sustainable footing. Saffron Cordery, its deputy chief executive, says: “Set against experts’ estimates that 3.3 per cent would be required for the NHS to just stand still, it poses big questions about future priorities which will have to be addressed in the NHS 10-year plan. Our report highlights the scale of the challenges the NHS faces in recovering lost ground that has built up over the longest and deepest squeeze in NHS history.”

Longlist of funding targets

There is a long list of targets that need funding.  If the NHS is to meet the target that 92 per cent of patients requiring non-urgent treatment should receive it within 18 weeks, it will need to spend £950 million a year for three years, according to NHS Providers. To meet the benchmark of admitting or discharging 95 per cent of A&E patients within four hours, hospitals would need to spend £894 million on 7,825 extra beds, the report says. In the last quarter of 2017-18 large A&Es only achieved 76.8 per cent.

The report also said that bringing mental health and community workforces back to 2010 levels would cost £346 million a year. Eliminating trusts’ deficits would cost between £650 million and £960 million a year. The report also said that social care funding would need £1 billion a year to support the NHS.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, also commented. He says: “One of the greatest dangers we face is unrealistic expectations. The reality is that we have some tough decisions ahead. We cannot do it all and we need to admit that.”

The Department of Health and Social Care says: “It is up to the NHS to develop a 10-year plan to propose how to best invest this funding (pledged by the prime minister) by working with government and consulting with patients as well as the public.”