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Friday, 5 February 2016

Carter report avoids real & urgent issues in the NHS

‘Slack attitudes’ and ‘bed blocking’? Lord Carter of Coles is avoiding the NHS’ real and very urgent issues.

Nowhere in Lord Carter of Coles’ report ‘Operational productivity and performance in English NHS acute hospitals: Unwarranted variations’ does he mention the minimum £4.5bn a year lost on market transactions which add nothing to patient care, according to independent and parliamentary reports into the NHS since 2010

Nor does he refer to the staggering sums spent on management consultants running the ‘Healthier Together’ and ‘Vanguard’ exercises around the country, whose sole aim appears to be to close down and downgrade services, reducing both availability and accessibility of care at the same time. Of particular note is the £1.3bn it has cost to redesign and downgrade services in North West London as highlighted by Michael Mansfield QC’s Independent Commission final report published in December 2015.

Instead Lord Carter asserts that £900 million a year could be saved if patients were moved out of hospital more quickly. At a time when there is a much promoted interest in ‘integrating’ health and social care it is extraordinary that he does not mention the additional funding to social services which is needed to pick up the extra care they would have to provide. Or does he rely on the privatised and means tested nature of social care to put these costs onto individuals rather than the public purse?

The report also refers to “slack attitudes” in the NHS which Lord Carter claims have allowed office space to expand while wards were left mothballed. Wards have beds in them and that needs staff. The National Office of Statistics has also just produced a report. They say that the NHS is currently running short of 50,000 staff. How does Lord Carter propose the ‘mothballed’ wards should be run with such shortages? Or is he happy with the latest moves to ignore safe staffing levels and cut staff even further to save money, which Monitor and the NHS Trust Development Authority are asking for?

He certainly doesn’t intend re-opening them, as his focus is on the office spaces, suggesting instead that the NHS could release a total £5bn a year in savings if hospitals streamlined their ways of working. He said “a significant amount of surplus land” in the NHS should now be sold off, and the use of existing buildings reviewed. Selling the family silver to pay the bills is always a short sighted strategy, but is in line with government policy to sell off every public asset possible.

Is Lord Carter not aware, after 18 months of interviews around the country and statistics available in the public domain, that the NHS has a very low level of beds for our population compared with our European neighbours, France and Germany? Perhaps that fact, combined with the staff shortages and the savage cuts to social care has more to do with the problems we are seeing than ‘slack’ staff, management ‘efficiencies’ or patients who cannot be moved into safe care out of hospital as quickly as he would like.

Article was submitted by the National Health Action Party