Even ex-Civil Service head couldn’t turn round cuts basket case
AN NHS trust whose chairman has resigned in protest at the dire shortage of government funding was put into special measures yesterday.
Lord Kerslake, a former head of the Civil Service, quit as chairman of London’s King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust on Sunday.
He warned that the health service could not continue “staggering along” with current funding levels, with additional pressures stemming from councils being too cash-strapped to provide adequate social care compounding the crisis.
NHS Improvement put the trust into special measures yesterday, citing “serious concern” about its growing deficit.
A budget deficit of £38 million for 2017-18 was agreed earlier this year, but last week it was forecast to more than double to £92 million.
Ian Smith has been appointed by the trust as its interim chairman.
NHS Improvement chief executive Ian Dalton said no other NHS trust had “shown the sheer scale and pace of the deterioration at King’s,” adding that its deficit was simply “not acceptable”.
Lord Kerslake told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that there was “not enough understanding of the scale of the challenge that both King’s and the NHS are currently facing.”
The cross-bench peer said: “I am deeply concerned about the position generally — actually in London, where most of the hospitals are struggling.
“But there is also a big issue about social care as well, which got no additional funding in the Budget.
“And I think, deep down, what we need is a proper review, a cross-party review — I don’t mind what it’s called — that looks at what kind of NHS do we want, how much is it going to cost and then how are we going to pay for it.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth pointed out that Lord Kerslake’s resignation was “embarrassing for the government.”
He said it served as “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.”
Unison head of health Sara Gorton said: “NHS finances are in a perilous state across the country, demand is going up but funding isn’t. Staffing shortages and a lack of resources mean the health service is struggling to cope.
“Trusts are in deficit everywhere and the government still isn’t funding them at the adequate level.”
A Department of Health spokeswoman 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.”