The British National Health Service (NHS) is widely recognized as the largest publicly funded health service in the world as 1.7 million employees cater to around 62 million people with a budget of around £106 billion. It is also considered as one of the most efficient, most egalitarian and most comprehensive in relation to health service delivery. Up until now, the NHS largely remains a ‘free service’ for anyone residing in the UK, although certain dental and optical services and certain prescriptions are given at a cost. With the rising cost of treatments and human resource management, the NHS is under an enormous amount of pressure to undergo reforms, which may change the future of British NHS in the coming years. This article will look at some of the suggested reforms and the direction expected to be taken by the NHS in the future.
Challenges driving the NHS reforms
When considering the challenges faced by the NHS at present, the health care demands made by the ageing population and the rising cost of treatment can be considered the most important. These challenges have forced the government to inject an additional sum of money amounting to around £12.1 billion over the next few years into the functioning of NHS. However, the government feels that an injection of such a large sum of money may not be adequate to meet with the rising costs and therefore the reforms pertaining to NHS workflow, its human resource capacity, as well as the policies on costing, should be undertaken sooner rather than late.
The Health and Social Care Act
The Health and Social Care Act 2012 is perhaps the most influential piece of legislation that was introduced by the government to restructure NHS since its formation in 1948. Thus, according to government legislators, the act will reform the NHS by means of giving patients more control over the care they receive, by handing over power to frontline doctors and nurses and by cutting on bureaucracy.
Establishment of Clinical Commissioning Groups
Two main proposals brought about by the said act are to abolish the NHS primary care trusts and the strategic health authorities. Instead, several hundred ‘clinical commissioning groups’ will take over around £60 to £80 billion health care funds saved from the abolition of the above. These groups would be lead by the general practitioners of England and a separate public body known as the ‘Public Health England’ is to be established by April 2013.
According to proponents of the Health and Social Care Act 2012, the proposal to reduce bureaucracy should pave the way to improve the services delivered by the NHS, as well as provide the system to recruit more clinicians in order to carry out the public health duties that has been promoted through the same Act. At the same time, the act will also provide for broadened preventive services restructured to take a prominent role in the countries health services. It is expected that such a move will reduce the number and the duration of hospital admissions in certain instances and therefore exert a monetary saving towards both the NHS, as well as to the patients. Therefore, the importance and the duties assigned to the local councils for the first time in the history of the NHS is considered one of the key measures that re-defines the future of the NHS.
By the looks of it, the Health and Social Care Act seems to be doing just the right thing in order to safeguard the future of NHS in the context of a rising cost of treatment and the burden of a rapidly ageing population. However, a total revamp of the system within a short period of time could derail certain elements, putting the lives and the health of the public at risk. Therefore, it is the duty of the policy makers and the health managers to adapt the legislation in the most rational and the most feasible way to protect the noble outcomes expected of the NHS reforms.