BBC News online recently contacted Professor Rob Baggott, and asked him to comment on the financial deficits being experienced by NHS hospitals, with particular reference to the East of England. In that part of the country, provider organisations have seen a 70% rise in deficits, which now total over £440m. Professor Baggott commented that this was part of a worrying national trend in the context of historically low funding coupled with rising demand for healthcare. He expressed concern about the difficulties faced by local health services in meeting the challenges in a period of resource constraint. Primary care (such as GP services) is essential in managing demand and ensuring that people are treated in the right place at the right time by the right people. But the percentage of the budget spent on this sector has fallen in recent years, putting more pressure on the hospitals. Social care is also vital to ensure that people can be efficiently and appropriately discharged from hospital settings to their homes or to other care facilities more suited to their recuperation– yet this sector had faced substantial cuts in the past five years, around 30% on average – so that only the seriously affected can get support. The false economies of such budget cuts were also evident in Professor Baggott’s own area of expertise – public health – where cuts had been made to local authority health budgets and further reductions were planned. Yet, as he explained, such activities are essential in addressing problems that will incur huge expenditures in the future if not tackled – for example alcohol abuse, smoking and obesity.
Professor Baggott is the author of Understanding Health Policy 2nd edition (Policy Press) published in November 2015, which analyses the impact of the Coalition government on health policy.
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