King’s Fund report: NHS financial crisis inevitable by 2015-16

John Appleby, Amy Galea, Richard Murray. The NHS productivity challenge. Experience from the front line. King’s Fund May 2014

“In summary
The assessment offered in this paper draws on our research into six NHS trusts and on our quarterly monitoring reports to paint a sobering but realistic picture of the state of NHS finances and performance today. We recognise that the call for more funding alongside acknowledgement of the scope for further improvements in productivity could be seen as contradictory, but for the reasons set out above we do not believe this to be the case. To persist in the belief that the NHS (and social care) will be ‘let off the hook’ of making further productivity improvements if additional funding is provided – as politicians sometimes argue – is a high-risk strategy that is likely to have substantial negative consequences. It also ignores the huge effort being made to continue delivering these improvements.
The question therefore is not whether the NHS will run out of money but when, and how this can be avoided. In a context in which organisations with a history of good performance are struggling to cope, there is every prospect that problems that have so far been found in a small number of providers will become much more common. The risk of contagion – of the NHS reaching a tipping point where only a minority of organisations are able to sustain acceptable levels of performance – is a clear and present danger, accentuated by the pressures facing social care. We hope our report will raise awareness of this risk and indicate how it can be avoided through planning and the targeted use of additional funding.” {Quote from report}