Doctors’ leaders have said that extra funding announced in the Autumn Statement for the NHS is a step in the right direction, but urged politicians not to use the NHS as a political football in the run up to next year’s General Election and to ensure it is not subject to another unwanted top-down reorganisation.
Following the Chancellor’s announcement of an extra £2bn annually for the NHS and an investment of £1.2bn in GP services, BMA council chair Dr Mark Porter warned that, while additional funding is desperately needed, the NHS has suffered years of under-investment and that turning things around will take time.
He warned that the NHS continues to face a number of challenges including a recruitment and retention crisis in areas such as emergency care and general practice. He also highlighted the importance of investing in GP surgeries to ensure they are fit for purpose and equipped to deal with rising patient numbers and more services being moved into the community.
A BMA survey of 4,000 GP practices earlier this year found that just over half of practices had seen no investment or refurbishment in the past ten years, four out of ten felt their current facilities were not adequate to deliver services to patients and almost seven out of ten felt their facilities are too small to deliver extra or additional services to patients.
Commenting following the Autumn Statement BMA council chair, Dr Mark Porter said: “While this extra funding is desperately needed, the situation will not be turned around overnight. The NHS is going through its tightest funding period in half a century– rising demand and years of underinvestment have left services dangerously overstretched, compromising patient care. The NHS also faces other challenges including staff shortages, especially in emergency care and general practice.”
He went on “A quarter of hospitals are in the red and many GP facilities have been starved of investment for decades, leaving them struggling to cope with record numbers of patients coming through the surgery door. With more services moving into the community it’s vital that additional funding for general practice is invested in premises, so they can be made fit for purpose.
Crucially, the NHS must not be used as a political football before the general election, or subjected to another unwanted top-down reorganisation afterwards. We need a long-term plan to deal with rising demand rather than short-term promises designed more for winning votes than truly saving the health service. Without this, the future of an NHS which remains true to its founding principles – open to all and free at the point of delivery – will be under threat.”