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East Anglian health services braced for cash shortage

PUBLISHED: 07:54 11 June 2009 | UPDATED: 10:04 06 July 2010

Health services in this region will have to get more efficient to deal with a cash shortage in future, health chiefs warned last night.

A report from the NHS Confederation, which represents most NHS organisations, said yesterday that the financial climate after 2011 would be "extremely challenging" the most difficult in the NHS's history.

Health services in this region will have to get more efficient to deal with a cash shortage in future, health chiefs warned last night.

A report from the NHS Confederation, which represents most NHS organisations, said yesterday that the financial climate after 2011 would be "extremely challenging" and the most difficult in the NHS's history. It said there would be "little or no" increases in funding, which, allowing for inflation, means cash would be reduced - by up to £15bn over five years.

But NHS managers locally are not admitting that there may be staff cuts or reductions in services, though they acknowledge there will be pressure to cut back on some areas, like non-essential surgery.

David Prior, chairman of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, said the hospital needed to save money by treating people better, so they were ready to go home sooner, and by doing more day surgery rather than admitting patients overnight. He said work to reduce superbug infections in the hospital had cost money but made savings in the long term by reducing illness.

He said: "There is no doubt that from 2011 the financial pressure is going to be extremely difficult for the whole health system. I am hoping over the next 18 months we can make changes that mean we don't have to reduce staff. If we spend money intelligently, we can save money and improve quality of care."

He said there may be pressure to reduce NHS services such as obesity surgery and plastic surgery, but that such cutbacks might actually cost money in the long term. "It might be cheaper to do the obesity surgery than deal with the other problems related to it.

"Breast reduction is an area that some people say is not necessary. But it can have huge impacts on the individual in terms of back pain and all the rest. People might say breast reconstruction after cancer is just about looking good, but it is much more profound than that - it can have a huge psychological effect on the individual. It is very difficult to draw the line."

At Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health Trust, acting chief executive Paul Thain said: "The NHS, in the context of the economic position in which the country finds itself, will require a slowdown in NHS develop-ment and some changes in services. However, we have in place long-term five-year programmes to reduce costs. While we will likely need to increase the amount of money saved, we believe that the breadth of our services will not only remain but that we should also be able to meet the main requirements of the people of Norfolk and Waveney."

David Stonehouse, finance director of NHS Norfolk, which pays for health services in most of the county, has warned that finances from 2011 will be much more difficult, but says they are planning to make efficiency savings rather than cut back on services.

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