NHS Regulators are due to take over entire areas of the NHS in England where essential health services are deemed to be failing.
The NHS England Chief Executive, Simon Stevens, announced that Essex, North Cumbria and North, East and West Devon, are all being placed in “special measures” in a bid to turn around the areas’ struggling hospitals, GP surgeries and community care services.
Addressing health managers in Liverpool, Mr Stevens called for a “new regime” and said that repeated approaches such as replacing chief executives and focusing solely on failing hospitals had been "tested to destruction".
Mr Stevens said that short-term bailouts and the “revolving door” of NHS chief executives had previously failed to make a difference to the first three areas to be placed under the new "success regime," and that NHS England will now work with regulators Monitor, the NHS Trust Development Authority, and the Care Quality Commission (CQC), to turn things around.
Hospital Trusts have been put into special measures before but these new plans, which are said to go significantly further, will see a “wholesale re-organisation” of NHS services as well as financial controls being implemented.
Other major challenges Mr Stevens outlined in his speech included the need to address the huge funding gap the NHS faces, improving performance standards in relation to A&E targets and mental health access, and reducing the over-reliance on agency staff, which cost the NHS more than £3 billion last year.
Although any kind of improvement drive is obviously a positive step forward, to improve patient care standards and reduce incidents of clinical negligence, measures such as these can only work if the right national expertise is successfully brought in to work alongside local leaders to address the imbalance in quality that exists in services across the country.
The main recurring issue here is one of funding, and the need for this kind of dramatic intervention is only going to increase if the government continues to fail to properly address the fact that current NHS funding is inadequate to cope with rising demand.
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