Health: How bosses are facing challenge of creating a sustainable NHS in Sheffield

Northern General Hospital A&E department, Sheffield.
Northern General Hospital A&E department, Sheffield.

Senior health bosses laid bare the scale of the challenge facing Sheffield’s NHS services at a public meeting this week.

The event was organised following the publication of a major report which called for ‘radical change’ in local NHS and healthcare services, to save hundreds of millions of pounds by 2020.

I see no reason why a high-quality NHS should not be sustainable – but we have a lot to do

The Sustainability and Transformation Plan said the current estimated shortfall for South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw would reach £571 million by 2020/2021.

This is made up of £464m relating to the health service and £107m for social care and public health.

The report said: “The scale of the challenge demonstrates why radical change is needed, both in the way services are delivered and in the way people use them.”

Health organisations across the region currently spend £3.9 billion on providing services to the area’s 1.5 million residents, covering things like hospitals, mental health, GP services and prescribed drugs.

At the meeting, senior health bosses, spoke in a personal capacity rather than as representatives of their organisation.

Kevan Taylor, chief executive of the Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Two-thirds of trusts are in deficit.

“My organisation has never been in deficit. Next year we are probably going to be. That is really not good.

“We have been financially sustainable for many years. We had a plan to take out £4.3m but that has just gone up to £8.3m. I’m not sure we can do that.

“If trusts like ourselves are facing financial difficulties next year that is serious.

“Our community mental health teams are having more pressure put on them. The financial situation is very difficult.

“If you look at the greatest health inequalities, it is people with severe mental health problems who dies on average 20 years earlier.

“People with longer-term mental health problems often have poor physical health.”

Tim Moorhead, chairman of NHS Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group, said city health services are currently missing official targets on waiting times such as being able to see a doctor within four hours at A&E and having an operation within 18 weeks of it being required.

He added: “On the whole, you can see a GP if it is really urgent.

“But if you want to see your regular GP, it is getting harder and harder. I’m honest, it is getting more and more difficult.”

He said once people do get seen, they typically receive a ‘really good service’.

Mr Moorhead said money needed to be spent carefully to deal with the financial challenges facing the NHS.

He said: “We get about £840m a year just for Sheffield, an enormous amount of money for the 560,000 people living in the city.

“We have got quite a lot of resource, we just need to deploy it really well.”

Mr Moorhead said ‘massively under-investment’ in social care has had a ‘big impact on the health service’.

He added: “We have a problem with the rest of the NHS in South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw, with big problems with debt in their hospitals.”

He said the solutions include more care in the community delivered closer to people’s homes and encouraging residents to look after their health issues by themselves as much as possible.

Kirsten Major, director of strategy and operations at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said real-terms growth in NHS spending has been around 0.9 per cent, compared to a normal level of four per cent.

“There are big challenges in funding and it is unsurprising we are feeling that pressure,” she said.

She said across the country last year, almost two million people had to wait for longer than four hours to be seen in A&E – the highest proportion since 2003.

She added that referrals to hospitals in Sheffield are up five per cent this year, while there are also problems with patients who are medically fit to be discharged remaining in hospital and taking up beds because of issues with social care services.

She said there needs to be a more sustainable funding model in place for NHS trusts.

Kirsten said: “I see no reason why a high-quality NHS should not be sustainable for the future. But we have a lot to do and a lot of complex deals to strike.”

Mike Simpkin, from Sheffield Save Our NHS, said: “The NHS is stripping off its clothes to bind its wounds.

“Survey after survey says we are willing to pay more tax for the NHS.

“ They need to get politicians to find a progressive way to do this.”

The plan proposes centralising some services in Sheffield.

Consultations are currently taking place on potentially stopping some children’s operations in Barnsley, Chesterfield and Rotherham, as well as around Barnsley and Rotherham hospitals no longer providing hyper-acute care for people who have had a stroke.