King’s caught between the ‘inexorable pressures’ of rising costs and the ‘tightest spending figures in recent times’, says Lord Kerslake © PA
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The chairman of one of the UK’s biggest and busiest NHS trusts, Bob Kerslake, has resigned from his post at King’s College Hospital over the government’s approach to the “enormous challenges” around funding, in the latest sign of financial concern over health.
The resignation was announced in an article in the Guardian in which Lord Kerslake, a former head of the civil service, writes the hospital is caught between the “inexorable pressures” of rising costs and the “tightest spending figures in recent times”.
Lord Kerslake’s departure marks the culmination of a prolonged stand-off between King’s, based at Denmark Hill, south-east London, and the government over the hospital’s funding arrangements. Lord Kerslake writes that King’s, which manages more than 1,300 beds, has “struggled financially” since it took over the Princess Royal Hospital in Bromley in 2013.
Since becoming chairman in April 2015, Lord Kerslake has helped to cut the hospital trust’s annual deficit from £140m to £80m in each of the last two years, he writes. The trust has moved “significantly away” from the planned financial performance for the current year, Lord Kerslake adds, but the trust is “far from alone” in that.
“Every hospital in London is struggling,” he writes.
“The right thing for me to do … is to step down and do so publicly,” he adds.
Bob Kerslake: ‘We desperately need a fundamental rethink’ © PA
The resignation comes against a backdrop of growing concern about funding for the National Health Service. Simon Stevens, head of NHS England, said before last month’s budget that the service needed an extra £4bn a year spending to avoid lengthening waiting lists. Philip Hammond, chancellor, awarded the service an extra £2.8bn over the next three years, far less than Mr Stevens had demanded.
There are widespread concerns that the pressures will lead to severe problems this winter as seasonal illnesses put a strain on already thinly-stretched services.
The service faces particular problems because nurses are next year likely to be awarded a pay rise of more than 1 per cent — the first such increase in seven years. It is unclear if hospitals will be awarded more generous funding to cope with the effects of the unexpected end to the public sector pay freeze.
In an effort to head off potential attacks over his record at the trust, Lord Kerslake quotes in the article a so-far unpublished draft report by the Care Quality Commission praising his leadership and saying he was “held in very high regard by staff at all levels”.
Lord Kerslake concludes by saying that, while there are things the trust could have done better, its problems fundamentally lie in the way that the NHS is funded and organised.
“We desperately need a fundamental rethink,” he writes.
The Department of Health did not immediately respond to a request to comment on Lord Kerslake’s departure.