England: Pressure to cut costs lessens quality in health and social services and patient safety

19 October 2015
The Care Quality Commission (CQC), England's independent regulator of health and social care, has released its 2015 report that reveals some shocking shortcomings in the care provided in the 5,439 health services covered in the latest inspection.

The Commission’s mission is to “make sure health and social care services provide people with safe, effective, compassionate, high-quality care and … encourage them to improve.” The CQC produces an annual report of its findings on the health social services in England.  Its most recent report - The state of health care and adult social care in England 2014/15 - was issued on 14 October 2015 . The report reveals some shocking shortcomings in the care provided in the 5,439 health services covered in the latest inspection. Two-thirds of hospitals were found to provide “substandard” care with 57 per cent needing improvement and a full 8 per cent being just plain “inadequate”. General practitioners (GPs) did better, with only 11 per cent needing improvement and 4 per cent being inadequate.

Critically, these observations and the report emerge as the National Health Service of England (NHS England) is still losing resources to a £22 billion drive for efficiency savings to be achieved by 2020, so worse is yet to come.

The CQC found staffing to be a major factor, and found that short staffing could undermine the safety of patients even in well rated hospitals, suggesting that understaffing is a systemic problem that cannot be addressed with current levels of health financing and current employment and working conditions of health and social care workers in the system.

UNISON, PSI’s public services affiliate that represents 1.3 million workers, has relentlessly called the NHS and the government on underinvestment in the health system and campaigned for staff, staff training and staff pay.

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