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Is quality healthcare affordable during times of austerity?

It has been just over a year since the Francis inquiry into poor standards at Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust, and in that time there has been a huge amount of discussion surrounding the quality of health and social care services. However, despite the issue of quality being pushed to the top of the agenda, a report by the Nuffield Trust has suggested that although there is universal agreement that quality is important, there are questions as to whether or not we can actually afford it.

The QualityWatch programme was set up to understand what is happening to quality during periods of financial constraint. Much of the information is sourced from performance measures used within a service, but we also need to look across services too.

Martin Bardsley, director of research at the Nuffield Trust, has said we need to focus on models of integration around the obvious pressures on services like A&E, and on issues surrounding public health indicators – particularly the ones linked with prevention.

He explains that both these issues suggest the need to collate information, sometimes from providers, at a population level. Where information like this was once analysed by primary care trusts, it now resides between three new organisational types – clinical commissioning groups, commissioning support units, health and wellbeing boards and Public Health England. He adds:

“As money gets tighter it’s increasingly important that we watch carefully to ensure that economies do not adversely affect the quality of services and the well being of disadvantaged subgroups of the population.”

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