The Government’s controversial health reforms are complicating the NHS’ ability to meet the Nicholson Challenge, a new report from the Health Committee has said.
The report found the reforms were a disruption to the NHS at time when it is being asked to make 4% annual cuts in an attempt to reach £20bn of efficiency savings by 2015.
Stephen Dorrell MP, Chair of the Committee, says the Nicholson Challenge is the “key issue” facing the health service and that “rethinking and redesigning” of services is needed to deliver long term benefits.
The report was analysing the progress of the NHS in achieving the savings targets set by the Government. It concluded that the Nicholson Challenge can only be met by making “fundamental changes” to the way care is currently delivered.
It called for a “wide process of service redesign on both a small and large scale” instead of the short term “salami-slicing” which has currently been witnessed. A closer link with social care to prevent people needing hospitalisation was also recommended by the Committee.
Dr Hamish Meldrum, Chairman of the BMA, backed the findings of the report and said it was of little surprise that short term issues are of focus for staff worried about the security of their jobs.
“We would agree with many of the Committee’s observations, particularly about the disruptive impact of the reforms on the NHS in England at a time when it is committed to finding £20 billion in efficiency savings,” he said.
“It has distracted staff and is causing chaos on the ground even before the legislation has been passed. It is perhaps little wonder that those trying to make efficiencies are focussed on short-term issues, such as their job prospects, and making rushed decisions on savings rather than looking to the longer term.”
He also claimed that the benefits of clinical-led commissioning could be witnessed without the need for the Health and Social Care Bill. Dr Meldrum said there was still time for the Bill to be withdrawn and for the Government and healthcare professionals to “agree a more pragmatic way forward”.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said the modernisation plans are “essential” if the NHS is to establish a “sustainable footing for the future”.
Speaking to the BBC’s Today programme, he said there was no evidence of ‘salami slicing’ cuts to create short term gains. “We have to deliver more care in the right place at the right time,” he said. “That means more care in the community.
“There’s been support for the principles of what we're doing, including from many of the leading professional organisations.
“The legislation's not completed its passage, the Lords are making many significant and constructive suggestions, and we will take those on board, but the principles of the Bill are widely supported.”