Warning over waiting times and cuts unless NHS gets more money

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Patients in England will see waiting times rise and cuts to services unless the NHS gets more money, a hospitals boss has said.

Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers, said the Government's plan to increase the budget by £8bn a year by 2020 will not be enough to avoid an impact on services.

He said more money was vital if the NHS was to have a chance of restoring financial balance, and pinpointed social care and general practice as areas under particular pressure.

More than 150 trusts are in deficit and most are not meeting key targets in areas such as A&E waits and cancer.

Mr Hopson pointed out that the Government's increased spend on the NHS is actually £4.5bn rather than £8bn, when cuts to other budgets, such as for training staff and money for public health schemes, are taken into account.

He said: "There is now a clear gap between what the NHS is being asked to deliver and the funding available. NHS trusts are working flat out to develop new and better ways of delivering patient care, but they urgently need targeted extra investment in the areas of greatest need.

"Investing in general practice and social care, as well as stopping the raids on capital spending to ensure our hospitals and other buildings are fit for purpose, must be an urgent priority.

"This would help GPs and care services to ease the rising pressure on hospital, ambulance, community and mental health trusts, which in turn would improve the quality of care people receive.

"The NHS has shown that with the right support it can transform services and deliver efficiency savings, so we believe these measures would produce a strong and immediate return on investment for the Treasury."

Mr Hopson warned that over the next three years, demand and costs will rise by at least 4% a year.

This will be set against the fact that real terms health funding per head remains flat or actually falls, he said.

He added: "We therefore have to decide what the NHS should prioritise. The NHS simply cannot do all that it is currently doing and is being asked to do in future on these funding levels."