The new chief executive of NHS England has told the organisation would lead a review on the future finances and sustainability of the health service.
At his first appearance in front of the Commons health committee in his new role, Simon Stevens also pointed out it was widely believed that NHS funding will be increased in real terms between now and 2021 if the UK economy continues to grow.
He said NHS England, in collaboration with other national organisations, would by autumn publish a report on the health service’s future in light of the financial environment. He did not detail what this work would address but indicated it would consider funding after 2015, and how the NHS can change.
The news comes at a time of growing political debate about the future funding requirements of the NHS and also of social care, and with a general election a year away.
Asked whether the NHS could maintain the quality of services while making £30bn of savings between now and 2021, Mr Stevens said: “What is absolutely clear is that for the NHS to thrive, the British economy has to do well. That point of connection has always been there in a tax-funded service.
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“The prospects of the British economy are very important to being able to answer your question.
“[If] strong economic growth returns then I think for medical reasons, for economic reasons, for social reasons, most independent commentators would predict that the nation would probably be spending more in real terms on healthcare by 2021 than it is now.”
Mr Stevens’ comments came the same day as new economic data was published revealing that the UK economy grew by 0.8 per cent in the first three months of 2014, meaning economic output is now within 0.6 percentage points of its peak before the 2008 financial crash.
Office for Budget Responsibility data last month showed that government spending on the NHS is set to fall to 6.2 per cent of GDP in 2015-16 – down from 6.5 per cent in 2012-13.
Mr Stevens also praised the “incredible effort” made over the past two to three years to ensure standards of care have “for the most part remained very high”, despite the longest funding squeeze in the NHS’s history. “That’s the result of a lot of goodwill and sacrifice on the part of frontline NHS staff”.
Stevens sets out alternative approach to small hospitals
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Stevens reveals review to address future NHS funding