The confederation, which represents hospital trusts, has written an open letter to the leadership contenders accusing them of failing to appreciate the “huge pressures” facing the healthcare system and the need for “meaningful long-term solutions”. The organisation said demand facing the NHS now is akin to that usually seen later in the year – resulting in a “winter in summer” crisis.
Danny Mortimer, deputy chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said healthcare leaders are heading into the next few months with “a real sense of foreboding” amid a growing backlog that is being hindered by chronic staff shortages and “crumbling infrastructure”.
But he said the Government is not being honest with the public about the depth of the problems and what is needed to address them.
He said: “We need both Mr Sunak and Ms Truss to demonstrate a heavy dose of realism about the state of the NHS and the promise of an open, frank and honest conversation about what this means.
“To truly level with the public they must acknowledge that this means crumbling buildings and ill-equipped outdated estate, 105,000 NHS staff and 165,000 social care vacancies at the last count, and a social care system in desperate need of repair and very far from being fixed as the current prime minister would have us believe.”
The warning comes after former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the NHS was “absent” from the leadership debate, despite a “looming winter crisis”.
Earlier today the Tory MP tweeted: “Staff shortages & morale have never been worse. If the NHS continues this spiral of decline with ambulances, A&Es & GP surgeries all in serious crisis, we’ll see avoidable deaths mount up this winter.
“Staff know there’s no silver bullet, but they need to know there’s a plan.”
Recently, Mr Sunak has said he would introduce a £10 fine for patients who repeatedly miss GP or hospital appointments.
Mr Sunak told the Sunday Telegraph he wanted to be “transformational” and “do something brave and… different”.
During his campaign, he has also promised a “vaccines-style” taskforce to tackle NHS backlogs, calling dealing with the issue one of his top priorities.
On the other side, Ms Truss has also agreed on the urgent need to deal with care backlogs, promising to install a “strong” health secretary to solve the issue.
She has also said she is “completely committed” to current Government promises for NHS spending, despite her plans to reverse the hike in National Insurance that was designed to pay to fix the backlog and reforms to social care.
However, NHS Confederation said that, whilst both Mr Sunak and Ms Truss have indicated general support for the NHS, “any real substance and clarity in how they will do this is still lacking”.