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The King’s Fund responds to the National Audit Office (NAO) report on NHS sustainability

Commenting on the National Audit Office (NAO) report on NHS financial sustainability, Richard Murray, Chief Executive of The King’s Fund said:

‘The report underlines the depth of funding pressures facing the NHS and its increasingly unsustainable financial regime. The NAO has laid bare just how difficult it will be to achieve the ambitions of the NHS long-term plan given where the NHS is starting from.

‘Complex NHS finances are bedevilled by short-term fixes, fragile workarounds, and unrealistic expectations. It is striking that the NAO is unable to fully assess the financial health of the NHS because of these complexities.

‘The NHS long-term plan aims to stabilise the health service, but its success rests on important decisions that are yet to be taken. The NAO report is right to highlight that the NHS funding settlement does not cover key areas of health spending such as public health, social care and doctor and nurse training. Those difficult decisions lie ahead.

‘NHS leaders have set out their ambition to focus on prevention and early diagnosis, but decisions on capital funding for diagnostic equipment won’t be made until the Government Spending Review later this year. Meanwhile, latest figures show that waiting time targets for tests such as CT and MRI scans are continually being missed.

‘Critically, the NAO makes clear the risk that some of the extra £20.5 billion NHS funding could go unspent because there are not enough staff to deliver extra services. Latest projections show that without a credible workforce strategy, staff shortages in NHS trusts could reach 250,000 by 2030.”

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