The Select Committee on the Long-term Sustainability of the NHS feel that the NHS has consistently failed to look into long-term strategic planning. Such short-sightedness has resulted in the NHS responding to the health needs of the population and therefore now having been prepared for the health needs of tomorrow. This has lead to increasing strain on the NHS such as from changing demographics and chronic disease profiles, the impact of which may have been reduced had the NHS planned effectively for the long-term future.
As such, the Committee is recommending the establishment of an independent Office for Health and Care Sustainability, which should stay out of day-to-day operation of health and care systems but keep a close eye on their future direction, particularly with regard to changing demographics, disease profiles and workforce skill and mix, to ensure that services can meet demand long-term.
In its report, the Committee concludes that a tax-funded, free-at-the-point-of-use NHS is still the most efficient way of delivering health care and should remain in place now and in the future, but it also stresses that many aspects of the way the NHS delivers healthcare will have to change to sustain the current model, as well as a shift in government priorities or increases in taxation.
The government must provide further funding between now and 2020, and after this point health spending must increase at least in line with growth in GDP in real-terms, the report stresses. Investing in early healthcare prevention strategies now can deliver much larger savings in the long term. However, if the NHS and governing bodies lack the foresight to look into the long-term sustainability, then such saving strategies can never be capitalised upon.