All three political parties must publicly acknowledge the financial crisis faced by the NHS and put solutions at the heart of their 2015 General Election manifestos, health chiefs have said.
In a letter sent to the main party leaders, seen by The Independent, they said that the health service was at risk of descending into “chaotic failure” if the next Government had no concrete plan to make it sustainable.
The letter, co-signed by Michael O’Higgins, chair of the NHS Confederation and Dame Gill Morgan, chair of the Foundation Trust Network, warns the parties that ignoring the challenge until after the election could be catastrophic.
“At the 2010 General Election, none of the political parties’ manifestos expressed the means of tackling the financial challenge facing the NHS,” it says. “This must not happen again. Change to clinical services is coming – through effectively planned change or through unplanned and chaotic failure.”
“With less than a year to go until the General Election, it is vital that all of the political parties address the full range of challenges facing the NHS or take responsibility for it becoming unsustainable in the form people want it,” it says.
The NHS Confederation, a membership body for commissioners of health services, has pledged to publicly scrutinize all three parties’ plans for the NHS ahead of the next election.
The call came as Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, said it would be impossible to make plan for the NHS’s future, without knowing what funding will be available after the election.
In comments that will put further pressure on the three main parties to come clean about their plans for NHS spending ahead of the General Election, Mr Stevens outlined his vision for how the health service could improve in the next five years, but admitted that until the funding situation was resolved, there could be no “five-year plan with a capital P”.
Speaking at the NHS Confederation’s national conference, he said the health service was facing “a defining moment” in its history following the “most sustained budget crunch since the Second World War”.
Health spending increases have been drastically reduced in the past five years, while demand from an ageing population has continued to rise.
In recent months the seriousness of the financial crisis facing the health service has become apparent. 66 NHS hospital trusts ended the year in deficit and experts have warned that the health service could become unsustainable without either a significant funding boost or cuts to services.
However, none of three main parties has publicly committed to increase spending in the next Parliament, although both Labour and the Lib Dems are known to be considering make spending commitments.