Britain's best loved institution is celebrating its 65th birthday, but a new study has warned that the NHS might not make its next milestone unless officials to take "courageous action" to transform the service.
The health service faces "significant financial and demand pressures", said Mike Farrar, head of the NHS Confederation. He said there needs to be a "radical shift" in the way the health service delivers care.
Writing a foreword for a new report on the coming challenges for the NHS, Mr Farrar said: "Sixty-five years from its foundation, the NHS remains a great source of national pride. But the service today is under significant financial and demand pressures that, as this report explores, only look set to increase."
Mr Farrar continued: "The result is a decade ahead that will see the NHS facing challenges greater than any it has had to deal with in its lifetime - challenges that demand a radical shift in the way we think about health and how we deliver care. On the 65th anniversary of the NHS it is right that we celebrate its great achievements. But we must also look to the future and work together to set an agenda for change that meets the needs of the population it serves."
The new report, conducted by consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, concludes that the public, care providers, regulators, commissioners and policy makers must take "deliberate and courageous action" to transform the NHS or it may not exist in its current form in 10 years.
The report recommends that the NHS moves from "fragmented to integrated care". Many have said that as the health service moves forward it must work better to integrate health and social care.
A survey of 1,000 doctors, conducted by the British Medical Association (BMA), found that almost half of medics believe that greater integration between health and social care was the most important factor to ensure the NHS survives another 65 years. The poll found that 47.4% of medics believed better joining-up of the services would help the NHS continue.
Last week, Chancellor George Osborne announced there would be a new £3.8 billion pooled health and social care fund. Mr Osborne said the money, which will be used by local health services and councils to join up services, will "end the scandal of older people trapped in hospitals". But others have said that the move does not go far enough.
The NHS was officially launched on July 5, 1948 by health secretary Aneurin Bevan. It revolutionised healthcare, giving millions of people a service they had previously been denied. It was the first system of its kind in the world and people queued in the streets in the hope of getting treatment.
Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt said: "In 65 years, the NHS has done more to improve people's lives than any other institution in our history, and its excellence makes us the envy of the world. We have taken real steps to protect the NHS and to give it a sustainable future."