Chancellor urged on extra NHS funds
The NHS is facing "financial crisis" unless George Osborne finds an additional £2 billion for health in next week's Autumn Statement, a health think tank has warned.
Patients will face longer waits, poorer quality care and staffing cuts next year unless the Chancellor reopens the spending settlement for 2015/16 with a major cash injection, warned the King's Fund.
The warning comes after Nick Clegg signalled that he expects Mr Osborne to respond to Liberal Democrat demands for more cash by delivering an extra £1.5 billion in his December 3 statement to help the NHS deal with winter pressures in 2015/16.
The Deputy Prime Minister said that there appeared to be cross-party support for the analysis of NHS chief executive Simon Stevens that an extra £8 billion a year will be needed by 2020 on top of efficiency savings.
In its briefing ahead of the Autumn Statement, the King's Fund said that an "unprecedented" number of NHS trusts are reporting deficits totalling £630 million, and warned it was "touch and go" whether the Department of Health balances the books this year.
With the NHS set to receive a real-terms increase in its budget of just 0.2% in 2015/16, significant amounts being diverted to the Better Care Fund for integrated health and social care and service pressures continuing to build, the think tank said that a financial crisis is "inevitable" next year unless more cash is made available.
Chris Ham, chief executive of The King's Fund, said: 'There is scope to improve productivity in the NHS, but this will not be enough to respond to unprecedented pressures on budgets and meet rising demand for services.
"Recent pledges from the main political parties to increase funding are welcome, but it is clear that none of them have yet addressed the scale or the urgency of the financial challenge facing the NHS.
"With deficit reduction still a high priority, finding an additional £2 billion in the Autumn Statement is a very big ask. However, unless more money is found, a financial crisis is inevitable next year and patients will bear the cost as waiting times rise and quality of care deteriorates."
Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said: "NHS patients are already seeing waiting times and cancer care heading downhill on this Government's watch - people will fear that much worse will be in store next year.
"Only Labour will rescue the NHS with a £2.5 billion a year Time to Care fund for new staff, including 20,000 more nurses - investment the Tories and the Lib Dems will not match.
"In next week's Autumn Statement, George Osborne should also commit to using £1 billion from banking fines to help ease the pressure on the NHS.
"David Cameron chose to put NHS finances on this knife-edge when he wasted £3 billion on a damaging re-organisation. You can't trust the Tories with the NHS."