Health Foundation, King’s Fund and Nuffield Trust publish letter to political leaders on NHS future

The Health Foundation, The King’s Fund and The Nuffield Trust have published a joint letter shining a spotlight on the current pressures faced by the NHS and urging political leaders to commit to tackling the underlying conditions shaping the nation’s health.

Addressed to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and Liberal Democrat leader Sir Edward Davey, the letter emphasises the “critical condition” that the NHS finds itself in and urges them to “make the next election a decisive break point by ending years of short-termism in NHS policy-making”.

Recovering services and reducing waitlists “should be a key priority for any government”, the letter states; however, “our work shows that promising unachievable, unrealistically fast improvements without a long-term plan to address the underlying causes of the current crisis is a strategy doomed to failure.”

The organisations point to the need to support the workforce, noting that whilst the recent NHS workforce plan signals “a welcome cross-party consensus on the need for a long-term approach”, it now also requires “a sustained cross-party commitment to updating forecasts and providing the resources it needs to succeed”. It warns against the risk of ambitious steps to increase training and apprenticeships being “frittered away”, if poor morale and sickness continues to drive early retirement and high drop-out rates.

On the topic of adult social care, the letter states that serious reform in this area has been “shamefully neglected by successive governments”. To overcome these challenges, the organisations call for new funding to be deployed as part of a reform package focusing on improving access to high quality care and prioritisation of better pay and conditions.

The nation’s health “should be treated as an asset to be invested in,” the letter continues. The next Prime Minister should “commit to a multi-year, cross-government strategy over the course of the next parliament to improve the underlying social and economic conditions that shape the health of the nation – like people’s income, education, jobs, housing and food.”

Persisting with short-termism and “eye-catching initiatives” will risk the health service and its ability to adapt moving onwards, they conclude, stating that it is “time to move away from quick fixes and over-promising”, placing focus instead on giving it the “tools it needs to succeed”.

The letter is signed by the chief executives of the three organisations: Dr Jennifer Dixon for The Health Foundation, Richard Murray for The King’s Fund and Nigel Edwards for The Nuffield Trust.