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NHS will be better prepared for the future but waiting times promise will be difficult to keep says The King’s Fund

Responding to the government’s announcement on the NHS Future Forum’s report, the Chief Executive of The King’s Fund, Chris Ham said:

‘Today’s announcement signals a more promising approach to meeting the health challenges of the future than the proposals originally set out in the Health and Social Care Bill. Demographic change and the increasing numbers of people with long-term conditions require a new model of care based on stronger collaboration between health professionals and more effective co-ordination of services. We therefore strongly welcome the emphasis on delivering integrated care and look forward to working with the government to achieve this.

‘The confirmation of the Prime Minister’s pledge to keep waiting times low, and the emphasis placed on the 18-week maximum wait for hospital treatment enshrined in the NHS Constitution, leaves the NHS with a very significant challenge. With the spending squeeze beginning to bite, the number of hospital inpatients waiting more than 18 weeks for treatment is already at its highest level for more than three years and waiting times for A&E and diagnostic services have also risen. As the government has said that it is opposed to targets, it now needs to be clear about how this pledge will be measured and enforced.

‘Although we need to see the proposed amendments to the Bill, there is much to welcome in the detail of today’s announcement, including the emphasis on clinical commissioning, a more nuanced approach to competition and an evolutionary approach to implementing the reforms. However, the sheer number of changes being made to the structure of the health system risks creating confusion and additional bureaucracy. The government will need to specify very clearly how these bodies will operate and work together.’

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