A seven-day NHS is impossible to achieve with current levels of funding and staffing, the head of the body which represents hospital bosses has warned.
Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers, said the health service was becoming severely overstretched and that services are already rationed in some areas due to shortage of funds.
Speaking to The Andrew Marr Show on the BBC, he said the NHS could barely meet current demand, let alone deliver Jeremy Hunt’s vision for a seven-day service.
The warning comes amid reports that MPs on the influential House of Commons Health Select Committee will launch a special inquiry into the state of NHS England.
The pledge to deliver seven-day care formed a central plank of the Conservative’s 2015 manifesto, but has been criticised by some experts and civil servants as unworkable without extra cash.
Opposition to the proposal, alongside demands for more pay, is also fuelling the bitter junior doctors’ industrial action, which is threatening all-out strikes lasting days at a time in October, November and December.
Jeremy Hunt and others have made a very strong case for seven-day services but it seems to us it is impossible to deliver it on the current level of staff and the current money available, said Mr Hopson.
If something has to give at the moment, and we are trying to do what we are currently doing, it can’t cover important new policies like seven-day services.
We have now got hospital trusts having to close services, we have also got trusts who are saying that the only way to make the money add up is to cut the workforce.
They cannot provide the right quality of care and meet the performance standards on the money that is available, and something as to give.
The Government has said it is giving NHS England the £10 billion it asked for, but Mr Hopson said that while the health service had done better than other public services, it was clear that the money was never going to be enough.
He also said that unless urgent funding is provided, hospitals in England will either have to cut staff, bring in charges or introduce draconian rationing of treatment.
This follows warnings earlier this month that obese people could be be routinely refused operations as a means of cost cutting as examples emerged of rationing in North Yorkshire.
NHS Providers said 80 per cent of England’s acute hospitals are now in financial deficit, compared to only five per cent three years ago.
Mr Hopson said the scale of over-spending represented “system-level problem” driven by rising demand for services, rather than poor management of individual trusts.
In May the Government admitted that the provider sector had overspent by a cumulative £2.45 billion in the last financial years.
A spokesman for the Department of Health said: We know the NHS is under pressure because of our ageing population, but we rightly expect the service to continue to ensure that patients get treated quickly.
News Source TelegraphNews