By: Ashley Cowburn Political Correspondent
“Unless we do that we’re just going to carry on staggering along, kicking the can down the road and not really addressing the fundamental issues,” Lord Kerslake added
A “proper” review into NHS funding is needed according to the former boss of one of the NHS’s biggest trusts, who resigned from his position at the weekend.
Lord Kerslake, the former head of the civil service, also indicated it was time to ask the public about contributing more financially towards the health service to uphold the quality of care in hospitals.
The comments from Lord Kerslake come after he resigned on Sunday as chairman of the King’s College Hospital Foundation Trust in London, claiming the NHS could not continue “staggering along” under the current levels of funding.
The crossbench peer, who has carried out some work for Labour, insisted his resignation had “nothing to do with party politics” and he said a “proper review” on a cross-party basis was needed to address the future of the NHS and how to pay for it.
“My personal view is that we face some here and now issues,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “I am deeply concerned about the position generally in London where most of the hospitals are struggling.
“There’s also the issue of social care that got no additional funding in the Budget. Deep down what we need is a proper review – cross–party review – that looks at what kind of NHS we want, how much it is going to cost, and then how we’re going to pay for it.
“Unless we do that we’re just going to carry on staggering along, kicking the can down the road and not really addressing the fundamental issues,” he added.
Asked whether it was time for the public to pay more towards the NHS, he replied: “I think we are into a proper debate with the public – that’s the key issue. We’ve had some fairly bold comments from Simon Stevens, the chief executive of the NHS, who said it needed an extra £4bn a year.
“There’s a commonality of understanding about what’s needed financially. We now need a debate with the public to say what’s most important to you. I think most people would put the quality of their health and care right at the top and I hope that would be reflected right at the top in the response to any such exercise.”
A spokesperson for NHS Improvement said the financial performance at King’s was “the worst in the NHS and continues to deteriorate”.
“We are considering a range of actions, including entry to our financial special measures regime, which means King’s will be subject to greater scrutiny and extra support from NHS Improvement.
“We respect Lord Kerslake’s decision to step down and will replace him with a highly experienced new chair to take charge of the trust’s position.”
Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “This is embarrassing for the Government and is evidence from a heavily respected figure on the front line that the Budget utterly failed to deliver for the NHS and that seven years of underfunding is impacting on patients in unacceptable ways.”
A Department of Health spokesperson said: “We know that King’s NHS Foundation Trust faces huge financial challenges and we will support them to tackle these issues and continue to deliver high quality care for patients under a new chairman.
“We would like to thank Lord Kerslake for his service.”
Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, described Lord Kerslake’s decision as significant “not least because he has been at the heart of government”.
He said that the Government has “enormously difficult decisions to make” and added: “But what is unarguable is that demand is growing beyond our capacity to meet it – and ironically the current constraints are slowing down our capacity to reform the way care is delivered.”