Two documents released in the last few days reveal both the severity of the NHS’s financial crisis and why it cannot find a way out.
In a briefing prepared for Sarah Wollaston’s health select committee, NHS England revealed more of the detail behind the £22bn of efficiency savings the health service is supposed to make by 2020-21 to tackle the growing gap between funding and demand.
It said that around £7bn of this will be achieved nationally, such as through pay restraint, leaving £15bn to be found locally. Out of this, £9bn is supposed to come from providers. The Five Year Forward View spelt out the enormity of this task, with providers needing to improve their efficiency by 2% every year – impressive compared with the NHS’s own history, the rest of the UK economy and other countries’ health systems.
The NHS has a rotten reputation when it comes to technology. But insiders hope that could be about to change. A newly-launched testbed programme, bringing together patients, clinicians and technology companies, is aiming to tackle some of the health service's most urgent problems. As an ageing population and funding uncertainties further stress its budget, the potential breakthrough couldn't be more timely.
At Davos in January, NHS England CEO Simon Stevens announced seven innovation testbeds that will take a different approach to tackling the impending health crisis. The initiatives will address everything from long-term conditions such as diabetes and heart illness, to mental-health and old-age care.
The Commercial Medicines Unit (CMU) has awarded a national framework agreement for Nitric Oxide Therapy to be used by trusts in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The framework agreement will commence on 1st April 2016 and is for a 24 month period with options to extend for up to a further 24 month period.
Scope of the framework
The products and services included in this framework agreement are described as Nitric Oxide therapy and this includes the gas, nitric oxide, which is supplied in cylinders, delivery devices, maintenance and some disposables and calibration gases. This was awarded following extensive consultation by CMU with stakeholders included clinicians, technicians, nursing staff and medical engineering staff.
'Five years of Tory neglect has left many hospitals with ageing equipment and a growing bill for urgent maintenance,' says shadow health secretary.
The NHS repairs budget has been slashed by £1.1bn, in an unpublicised cut included in George Osborne's 2016 Budget. The Chancellor did not mention the cut in his Budget speech, and the 30% decrease in funding was only uncovered following a Labour-sponsored review of the Budget by the House of Commons Library.
The capital budget of the NHS is used to fund repairs and replace out-of-date or broken equipment. The NHS was expected to be allocated £4.8bn to cover this area, but the Budget revealed the health service will only be receiving £3.7bn of capital budget.
A new app to help doctors with referrals for patients suspected of having cancer has been launched. It features a quick reference guide for health professionals, including information on symptoms, signs and images of what to look out for.
It is available as a free download via the Apple and Google app stores. The Scottish government commissioned the development of the app version of the Scottish Referral Guidelines for Suspected Cancer. It was produced by the Scottish Centre for Enabling Technologies, based at the University of the West of Scotland. The app can be continually updated when the user is in a wi-fi zone, giving them the latest information as quickly as possible. It can also be used offline.