A failure to fundamentally change the way healthcare is delivered will result in “very serious patient costs,” according to a former health minister.
Stephen Dorrell, chairman of Commons the Health Select Committee, said “more of the same” would lead to falling standards and service cuts as hospital-centred care was no longer affordable and not in patients' interest.
Mr Dorrell told The Independent that claims for and against the controversial health reforms had been “grossly overstated” and had taken away from more urgent issues facing the health service.
His intervention comes just days after a senior NHS figure claimed that one in four hospital patients would be better off treated at home. The coming year will be a critical one for the NHS as it prepares for wholesale structural reforms outlined in the Bill and works towards £20bn of efficiency savings.
Mr Dorrell said: “The Bill introduces some steps in the right direction, but it's not the main game. The main game is to change the way care is delivered otherwise we will not meet the demands of patients out of the resources available.
”I don't think it is remotely plausible to improve or even maintain the quality of care and make 4 per cent efficiency savings every year by cutting management cost, buying a bit cleverer and cutting out waste. But better value and better quality care is doable if we deliver more integrated care, more preventative care, intervene earlier, more community based care, all talked about endlessly for more than 20 years.“
Mr Dorrell would like to see less focus on waiting times and more on ”unsexy“ areas such as mental illness, dementia and diabetes, where the vast majority of the £120bn annual health and social care budgets are spent, although he fully expects more public and political turmoil in 2012 as some areas fail to grasp the nettle for change.
”Most prime ministers would aspire to keep the health service out of the newspaper because it usually gets in for the wrong reasons, and this year it's been in the newspapers too much. I hope next year we spend less time talking about statute and more time talking about healthcare.“