13 March 2015

Medical Royal Colleges urge future governments to invest in the NHS

Chairs and Presidents of six Medical Royal Colleges have signed the following letter, which has been published in the Guardian today.

Dear Sir,

Recent polls showing that the NHS will be the number one issue for many voters in the forthcoming general election reflect how much our health service is valued by all sections of society, but also how worried the public is about its future.

People are right to be concerned. The NHS does a fantastic job of providing excellent patient care free at the point of access, but frontline services are increasingly buckling under the pressure as they struggle to meet the changing needs of an ageing population within a budget that is failing to keep pace with ballooning demand. As GP surgeries, hospital wards and community services come under growing strain, whoever forms the next government will have to take tough decisions about how the NHS is funded.

NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens has recently set out a landmark vision for the future of the NHS in his Five Year Forward View strategy document.

It makes a compelling case that the delivery of care should be increasingly integrated around individuals' particular needs, backed by a strengthened primary care sector better equipped to empower them to stay healthy and out of hospital wherever possible.

This vision has received widespread support from both patients and healthcare professionals, and represents the best chance we have of safeguarding the future of the NHS. However, what we fear is missing is the political will to make it happen.

Mr Stevens has made it clear that to deliver his plan, the next government will need to invest at least an extra £8bn per year in the NHS by 2020. This will help close an estimated £30bn funding gap that will have emerged by the end of the next parliament. It would not be money to pay for 'more of the same' but resourcing that would help transform the NHS into a service fit for the tough challenges of the twenty first century. Clearly, this represents a substantial investment, but retaining the status quo will cost taxpayers more in the long term.

All the major parties say they want to maintain the NHS as a service that delivers excellent patient care, free at the point of access.

But voters, concerned about the future of their health service, will want to see the parties vying for their support put their money where their mouth is and pledge to increase investment in the NHS in line with the sums for which the politically-neutral Mr Stevens is calling.

The NHS has been consistently ranked as one of the most equitable and cost-effective health services in the world by the independent Commonwealth Fund, but this status will be put at risk if we don't fund it adequately.

We therefore call on all the political parties taking part in the general election to commit formally to investing an additional £8bn per year in the delivery of healthcare by the end of the next parliament, in order to safeguard the future of the NHS.

Without such a firm commitment, voters may view the promises of the political parties as being nothing more than window dressing.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Maureen Baker, CBE, Chair, Royal College of General Practitioners
Professor Jane Dacre MD, PRCP, President, Royal College of Physicians
Dr David Richmond, President, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
Dr Jean-Pierre van Besouw BSc (Hons) MBBS FRCA FRCP Ed Hon FRCS, President, Royal College of Anaesthetists
Dr Hilary Cass OBE, President, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health
Professor Sir Simon Wessely, President, Royal College of Psychiatrists, Professor of Psychological Medicine King's College London, Director King's Centre for Military Health Research
Dr Clifford Mann FRCP FCEM President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine

Further Information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7574/7575/7581
Out of hours: 0203 188 7659


The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 50,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.