The NHS could be in financial crisis by 2015/16 or earlier, a new report has claimed.
Released by healthcare thinktank the King’s Fund, the report states that a significant increase in funding is needed.
The King’s Fund believes a financial crisis is now “inevitable”. The main ways of reducing costs – holding down salaries, reducing prices paid to hospitals and cutting management costs – have now been “exhausted”, the report said.
The report argues that new funding should not be used to disguise the need for change by propping up unsustainable services.
John Appleby, chief economist at The King's Fund and lead author of the report, said: “There is still scope to improve efficiency in the health service, and efforts to release savings should be re-doubled. However, it is now a question of when, not if, the NHS runs out of money. Without significant additional funding, this will lead to rising waiting times, cuts in staff and deteriorating quality of care.
“It is essential that politicians from all parties are honest about the scale of the financial pressures facing the NHS and initiate a public debate about the long-term sustainability of the health and social care system before, not after, the general election.”
NHS Confederation chief executive Rob Webster said: "This is a helpful addition to the overwhelming evidence that the health service is facing the most challenging period in its history.
“Continuing to do things in the same way as we have always done is clearly no longer an option. It is essential that the NHS has both the space and the permission to change what it does and how it does it.”
Figures released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show that between 1997 and 2012, the total UK health care expenditure as a share of gross domestic product (GDP) was lower than in all G7 countries except Italy.
Spending for health services "slowed significantly" to 1.6% between 2009 and 2012, the ONS said.
In 2012 total health expenditure in the UK was £144.5 billion.