A recent leaked NHS document has shown that secret plans to cut health spending in London will have a disastrous impact on the city’s hospitals. Ten NHS hospital trusts in North London are being forced to make difficult choices in an attempt to meet stringent expenditure caps. The authors of the document, which was recently circulated to NHS executives openly admit that the cuts will result in poorer care being offered to patients.
North London Hospitals Affected
A number of the largest hospitals in North London will be adversely affected, including the Royal Free Hospital, Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital and University College Hospital, London. Over one million people living in boroughs such as Barnet, Camden and Enfield will be affected.
Cuts May Affect Patient Waiting Lists
These cuts are being imposed on 14 different areas of the country where hospital trusts are recording some of the NHS’s largest deficits. The ‘expenditure caps’ which are being placed on these trusts mean that executives will have to decide in which areas of their services to restrict the level of care offered to patients. Whilst no final decisions have been made, proposed changes include making patients wait longer than the current maximum of 18 weeks for planned operations and hospital units being downgraded or, in some cases, closed. Further proposals could see trusts putting less money into the Better Care Fund, which was itself devised to relieve pressure on hospitals by offering older people better social care.
The cuts have been criticised by both the Labour opposition in parliament and doctors working in some of London’s biggest hospitals. Whether the changes will achieve the proposed reduction in spending is open to question. Whilst patients could be made to wait longer for operations and whilst some funding could be withdrawn from recently-approved and so called “low value” treatments, the NHS will still have to incur medication and physiotherapy costs for a longer period of time whilst these same patients wait to ‘qualify’ for treatment.
NHS England, which is the independent body responsible for improving patient outcomes in the NHS, and the Department of Health have so far refused to publicly comment on the contents of the leaked document. However it is understood that executives have admitted that the cuts being imposed on hospital trusts will be hard to explain. The document notes that the choices those in charge of the trusts will be forced to make are likely to impact on the quality of patient care and will be difficult to implement.
Given the reservations that those in charge of implementing these changes have and the negative effects which existing cuts to the NHS budget have already had to date, the proposed changes in this document make for worrying reading. Should standards of care be adversely impacted this could have a disastrous effect for patients in these areas. It is to be hoped that any changes which are necessitated by budget cuts are implemented in a way which prioritises patient safety at a time when the NHS is already under a great financial strain. The document does make clear that any options which are pursued will need to be subject to ‘quality impact assessment’ and it awaits to be seen which choices will be made.
At Osbornes Law we care about how you are treated both by medical professionals at hospital and also under the care of your local GP or other treating doctor(s). If you think that the medical care you have received fell below the standards expected of a reasonably competent medical professional, then please do not hesitate to contact Stephanie Prior, Head of Clinical Negligence on 020 7681 8671, or Nicola Hall, Solicitor on 020 7681 8701.