FINANCE NHS Confederation poll finds widespread discontent over service improvements

Published: 16/06/2005, Volume II5, No. 5960 Page 9

More than one third of NHS chief executives think improvements made in the health service have not matched the record increased investment in the service, according to an NHS Confederation poll.

The survey of 80 chief executives across acute trusts, primary care trusts and strategic health authorities revealed that 35 per cent believed gains made in the health service were not 'proportional' to the level of investment. Only 9 per cent 'strongly agreed' that improvements matched expectations.

The poll also revealed that almost two thirds of chief executives do not believe that all the targets, up to 2008, can be met with current funding, and 84 per cent said that any cuts would hit patient care.

NHS Confederation chief executive Dr Gill Morgan said: 'This is not a story about shortage of funding rather that our ambitions are running ahead of what is possible.

'Between 1972 and 1998 Britain fell£220bn behind average European levels of health expenditure.

We have now seen large increases in funding, but we cannot get over this chronic underinvestment overnight'.

She added: 'The government is right to be ambitious and to demand excellence, but chief executives are worried that the pace of change cannot continue without further investment. The task for the coming year is to deliver more non-hospital care and we need to ensure there is sufficient funding for this.' Money worries also surrounded the welter of recently introduced workforce reforms, with 92 per cent of chief executives claiming they were not affordable.

NHS Confederation policy director Nigel Edwards said the figure reflected concerns about increased pressure to achieve efficiency savings. 'There is a line where efficiency becomes cheapness, ' he said.

The poll, which coincides with this week's NHS Confederation conference, also revealed that more than two thirds of chief executives thought surgical patients were more afraid of MRSA than the operation itself.

Mr Edwards said: 'If MRSA wasn't worrying enough, this perception makes it even more so. It seems that MRSA is increasingly being used as a stick with which to beat the image of the NHS, particularly as waiting lists are falling.' Chief executives also called for the choice programme to be radically extended, with patients offered a choice in what treatment they receive as well as where they receive it.

Eighty-five per cent of chief executives wanted the choice programme to extend to type of treatment.

The survey also reported that chief executives believe obesity is the biggest threat to public health in the UK, ahead of smoking, and then alcohol abuse.

www. nhsconfed. org/ See Interview, pages 20-22.