Responding to a report by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) which warned that a ‘disproportionate’ growth in spending on specialised services poses a risk to the financial sustainability of the wider NHS, BMA chairman, Dr Mark Porter said: ‘This is yet another warning about the financial crisis that is engulfing the NHS.
‘Patients deserve more than shoddily planned healthcare and funding. The new prime minister must, as a priority draw up a long-term strategy for the NHS that addresses the fundamental workload and funding challenges that are overwhelming our health service.
'Failure to invest now will result in a disaster in the future both financially and in terms of patient health and care.’
The PAC report found that over the past three years spending on specialised services had increased at a faster rate (6.3% per year) than across the NHS as a whole, and it expressed concern that despite an increased budget for specialised services, NHS England had not kept spending within the budget it set itself.
The committee also warned that NHS England and the DH had ‘painted an unduly healthy picture’ of the state of commissioning specialised services in England.
‘It is disappointing that, after three years, NHS England still does not have consistent information from all providers on costs, access to services and outcomes, or how efficiently services are being delivered,’ it said.
‘Without this information it cannot manage the ongoing pressure on its budget, make effective strategic decisions or gain assurance that its objectives for these services are being met.’
Dr Porter said that one part of the health service was essentially being robbed to pay for another.
‘NHS funding has not kept up with rising patient demand and the increased cost of delivering care,’ he said.
‘Staff shortages are seen across the NHS, patients are waiting longer for appointments, and there is no real solution to the £22bn funding gap facing our health service.’
Specialised services are provided in relatively few hospitals for small numbers of patients. The services are usually for patients who have rare conditions or who need a specialised team working together at a centre. There are currently 146 specialised services, covering conditions such as renal and mental health problems and rare cancers.