NHS’ ability to sustain improvements questioned

NHS’ ability to sustain improvements questioned

A REPORT PUBLISHED by the Audit Commission has found that the NHS Plan targets are helping to improve services, but the progress may not continue for the long term because of the way the targets are being achieved.

‘Achieving the NHS Plan’ assesses the work done so far by all trusts in England to meet the Government’s targets. Auditors assessed progress on key targets between the first and second years of NHS Plan implementation, and the likelihood of achieving the key targets and milestones for 2002/03.

According to the report, the focus on waiting times is beginning to pay off, with other achievements including cleaner hospitals and improvements in privacy, and the introduction of more flexible employment conditions and childcare provisions.

However, questions remain over whether these improvements will last in the long term, given the pressures on the NHS and the way in which some hospitals are achieving the targets. The report found that more than half of trusts in England have been diverting money for specific improvements to keep services running in the short term.

Examples of this included; taking money away from IT and medical equipment, making it more difficult to improve areas like cancer care, paying considerable extra costs to private hospitals to carry out their work, and allowing hospital buildings to deteriorate so maintenance money can be spent on patient care.

The commission also warned that several of the 29 trusts likely to apply for foundation status were ‘judged to have weak management and financial arrangements, making it less likely they could sustain high performance!

Duane Passman, acting head of capital investment at London Strategic Health Authority, commented: “The report is a snapshot at a point in time – just over two years of a 10-year programme, and that is clearly acknowledged. For me what came out of it is that significant progress has been made but there is still much to do and everyone is working extremely hard to achieve these targets.”

Copyright Wilmington Publishing Ltd. Jun 2003

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