This week, the Times published a damning report highlighting the acute waste associated with this government’s ‘streamlining’ of the NHS, as more than £90m was spent on redundancy to staff who were then immediately rehired. This does not come at a good time for the health service, which is still reeling from the press attention its reported £2.2 billion deficit attracted at the end of last year.
The Times also reveals that £150 million was spent on management consultancy designed to make the health service more efficient. Both revelations highlight the gross mismanagement and the misspending of public funds that should have gone to those who needed it most: the vulnerable and ill.
This is also not the first time that the NHS has come under scrutiny for frivolous, expensive and – in some cases – downright unnecessary recruitment costs. In one instance, an interim finance chief for one trust was paid £1m a year – highlighting the double standards at play of an organisation that claims it wants to cap the rates it pays for vital agency staff.
With so many challenges facing the wider health and social care sector, The Times is right to point out that patients will be left furious at such extreme waste when taxpayer money could be far better spent. For example, poor NHS governance has manifested itself in the ‘bed-blocking’ scandal, as covered in this recent Prestige blog. Last year alone, this problem cost the NHS £305 million, a sum the organisation can ill-afford.
Along with better financial management, bed-blocking can only be overcome if the supply of nurses and social-care workers is increased. This is a difficult task, however, and several barriers exist that perturb such a policy. One such example resides in the exponential expansion of the elderly population, the population of men aged 75 and over having increased by 149% since 1974. The immigration cap also seriously hampers the employment of nurses from overseas, further damaging the supply of care available.
The provision of trained and compassionate social-care professionals is a vital part of our healthcare system and is necessary for its continued success. With supply so low and demand so high, it is also a problem that must be combated now, before the situation grows out of control. This will be expensive but, unlike the mismanagement of NHS funds, it is also money well spent. Rather than wasting resources and money, health care leaders need to consider an over-arching approach to improve efficiency and see how health and social care can combine to alleviate the sector’s challenges.