Responding to health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s speech to the 2014 Conservative Party conference, NHS Confederation chief executive Rob Webster said:
“Politicians of all parties must play a full part in securing a sustainable future for the health service and social care so it is vital that the NHS does not become a political football. As we make changes to services in the coming months and years, we need to see that honoured from Whitehall to every Town Hall.
“Despite making a link between the economy and healthcare spending, Mr Hunt gave no indication of the level of expenditure on the NHS in the future. The level of funding is a political choice. Without clarity on this, we will not make the significant changes that are required in care delivery. We need politicians, the public and the NHS to have an honest, informed debate about funding for health and care services in the country, for now and the future.”
Welcoming Mr Hunt’s commitment to increased transparency, Mr Webster said:
“Making it easier for people to take responsibility for their own health and care and making it easier for people to shape the care and treatment they receive are important parts of helping put the NHS firmly into the 21st century. Commitments on increasing access to performance data and patient records are welcome. It is vital that we now support patients and their families to make full use of this additional information – so we can continue to build a genuinely transparent culture that increases people’s understanding and knowledge.
On the role of the independent sector in delivering NHS-funded care, Mr Webster said:
“Mr Hunt is right to point out that independent providers can play a valuable role in delivering NHS-funded services for patients. As long as NHS values – safe, high quality, and free-at-the-point-of-need – are upheld, patients rarely mind whether their care is delivered by an NHS organisation, a charity, or an independent sector provider.”
Acknowledging Mr Hunt’s emphasis of the importance of compassion, Mr Webster added:
“Mr Hunt’s focus on compassion and care for everyone, and continuity of care for those who need it is consistent with what we are seeking to achieve in the NHS in the future. Extended general practice and named doctors will only be part of the required changes though. The NHS – from primary care to urgent care, and from community services to leading teaching hospitals – is facing an unprecedented squeeze, and social care has seen real reductions. It is more important than ever that we stop doing ‘more of the same’.
“This will take political courage; certainty on funding over an extended period; large scale transformation of services through a national framework that is locally delivered; workforce reforms that recognise the NHS is made of teams of people; and the enablement of millions of patients to self care. Mr Hunt’s speech began to answer some of the questions as to how this may be achieved. We will continue to work to ensure that the unanswered questions are also clear.”