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05-07-2011 | General practice | Article

NHS access warning


NHS Confederation Members Survey

NHS managers fear that access to services will suffer under the government's ongoing drive to meet efficiency targets, a survey has revealed.

A total of 287 chairs and chief executives, from 243 NHS organisations, responded to the survey. Over half (53%) said that patient access is likely to decrease in the next year, and only a fifth thought it would improve.

Nearly half (47%) of members said the financial pressures were "very serious", albeit not the worse they had ever experienced, while almost as many (42%) said that they were the worst they had ever experienced.

Cuts in local authority funding are of particular concern, with 71% of members saying that these will result in increased demand for primary care services, while 88% said they will extend delays to hospital discharge.

Nevertheless, a majority (58%) said that clinical outcomes will improve in the next year, and half that patient safety would improve. And, although nearly a third felt the patient experience will worsen, nearly half said they felt that it will get better.

Members saw delivering on reforms at the same time as efficiency savings as the main barrier to meeting QIPP or cost improvement objectives, but still the large majority (76%) were confident they would meet their targets.

NHS Confederation chief executive Mike Farrar was set to speak on the survey results at the Confederation's annual conference, telling members the results sound "a loud wake-up call rather than a counsel of despair".

Commenting further in a press statement, he said: "People will overlook these worrying results at their peril. This is the view of those who run the service, who will implement the reforms, and on whom the immediate future of the NHS depends."

"It is getting harder to maintain the great progress we have made on the quality of care, and there is now real concern about the speed of access to services," he added.

GP News is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Caroline Price