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Wanless report questions future of healthcare

A major report into the NHS has questioned the long-term viability of the healthcare service.

Five years after his high profile 2002 report for the Treasury, Sir Derek Wanless examined NHS performance for the King’s Fund, an independent charitable foundation.

His report praised injections of funding into the NHS, but warned the government is not on track to deliver a sustainable and world class healthcare system.

He says: “Without significant improvements in NHS productivity, and much greater efforts to tackle obesity in particular, even higher levels of funding will be needed over the next two decades to deliver the comprehensive, high-quality services envisaged by my original review. Such an expensive service could undermine the current widespread political support for the NHS and raise questions about its long-term future.”

King’s Fund chief executive Niall Dickson says: “It’s clear that if we are going to sustain a system that is comprehensive, tax funded and free at the point of need we will need to be clear about what we want to achieve for this massive investment and be able to demonstrate that high quality, efficient services are being delivered.

“This report does suggest that there is a case for a rate of growth above four per cent in the forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review but even with that level of continued investment there would be a need for improved productivity and efficiency. Without this there will inevitably be questions raised about the long-term viability of our health service.”

Standard Life Healthcare head of corporate affairs Paul Lynes says the report is useful in helping to provoke a proper debate about the future of healthcare provision. He says: “The future of healthcare is too often a political football that politicians find difficult to talk about.”

“The future of the NHS depends on whether or not people want it to be all things to all people. We see the private market working complimentarily to help create better healthcare provision. There is a market for people who want to go private.”

BUPA Health Insurance managing director Fergus Kee says: “The NHS could raise revenue by charging co-payments for services such as GP visits. The government could also introduce incentives to encourage employers and individuals to use private healthcare services, which would help to ease the funding pressures on the NHS and improve the level of service offered to everyone.

“An addition solution could be to remove the tax disincentives for businesses providing private healthcare for employees. This would allow bosses to provide more workplace health benefits creating a quadruple benefit – for the employee, employer, NHS and UK plc. We know that corporate Britain is increasingly prepared to take some of the burden off the NHS but needs incentives to do so.”

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