Hospitals watchdog says NHS can improve care 'without more money'

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England's top hospital inspector has called for the transformation of emergency care, insisting that reforming the health service is not just about more funding.

Professor Sir Mike Richards, the Care Quality Commission's (CQC) chief inspector of hospitals, said that while he had seen poor care in his job he had also seen hospitals improve without getting extra cash.

Sir Mike also told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that Brexit posed a threat to recruitment in the NHS which had to be addressed.

He said: "There's no doubt the NHS needs more money, because of increasing demand on it and the need to transform services.

"But it's also true, as we have seen, that things can be done better without more money, and that's what we are encouraging alongside saying yes, we will need more money."

Earlier this year Sir Mike said the NHS "stands on a burning platform" with four out of five trusts needing to improve on patient safety.

"What I meant by that is the number of people coming to A&E departments is going up, the number of people being admitted from A&E departments is going up, the difficulty in getting patients out of hospital again at the other end is going up," he told Today.

"All of those create a burning platform where we need to transform the way we deliver emergency care.

"We need far greater integration between GPs, hospitals, care homes, community health services, to make that work."

Sir Mike is stepping down from his role at the CQC at the end of the week.

Sir Mike called for more beds in the care sector, for lessons to be learned from errors and for the NHS to use its money on a "transformation agenda".

He added: "What we have seen in our inspections is an awful lot can be done, even at times of austerity when the money hasn't been coming through fast.

"We have seen a number of hospitals actually getting better during that time, a number of mental health trusts getting better because they have focused on what really matters to patients, on patient safety and on the whole leadership agenda within these hospitals in order to engage their staff and deliver better care."

He said he had very occasionally seen "very poor care" on wards, citing one particular case where the CQC ordered a 28-bed ward to close eight beds because nursing staff were spread too thinly.

Sir Mike also said there was a need to recruit more staff across the NHS and care sector, adding: "If we are leaving the EU there is a threat to that which we need to make sure is being dealt with so that we aren't losing staff and we can then replace them and, if necessary, to grow our own, if you like."