Specialist health services for children hit by funding crisis

NHS funding changes are threatening essential paediatric services, a group of leading children’s hospitals has warned.


In a letter to ministers at the Department of Health, the The National Children’s Health Alliance – made up of Great Ormond Street, Alder Hey, Birmingham and Sheffield Hospitals – claim the new payment by results funding system is diverting money away from specialist children’s health services. 


Under the payment by results system, hospitals are paid for each patient they treat according to a national tariff. The government argues the system helps to reduce waiting times and “rewards efficiency and supports patient choice”.


However the four hospitals in the alliance have predicted a £22m funding shortfall this financial year because the system under-estimates the cost of treating children and “fails to recognise the complexity of work undertaken by specialist children’s services”.


The letter, signed by the chief executives and chairs of each health trust, reads: “We are extremely concerned that vital specialist paediatric capacity, particularly in surgical specialties, will be lost. The new opportunities presented by choice and through payment by results should be benefiting children and young people, but quite the reverse seems to be the case.”


The letter was brought to public attention by the Liberal Democrats, who said the rush to reform the NHS was putting children at risk. Health spokesperson Steve Webb said: “These children’s hospitals do a superb job, yet they are being undermined by the government. Where hospitals are providing highly specialist treatment, the money they get should reflect that.”


Great Ormond Street hospital confirmed it would have to cut its costs substantially and make a small number of redundancies. A spokesperson said: “The Children’s Health Alliance has been working with the DH for many months on payment by results. But significant issues remain, in our opinion, unresolved.”


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