A new study makes clear the amount of extra cash neededby Anita Charlesworth / May 24, 2018 / Leave a comment
In July, it’s 70 years since the NHS was founded, providing cradle to grave health care tax-funded, free at the point of use, based on need not ability to pay.
The NHS has proved remarkably resilient over those 70 years but there have been bumps along the way. Thirty years ago Margaret Thatcher was in the midst of one of those bumps, with growing public discontent with rising waiting lists and nursing shortages contributing to increased pressure for more funding. Some extra investment was duly committed to the health service. Thatcher’s review of the service led to the introduction of market-based reforms, with the last concluding blast being the Health and Social Care Act of 2012. Similarly, in the midst of a spending squeeze in the late 90s, public satisfaction with the NHS was at an all-time low. After sustained funding increases through the 2000s, levels of satisfaction doubled to a record 70 per cent in 2010.
The critic’s charge sheet for the current NHS has great similarities to those times. Waiting lists were at the historic high of four million in March 2018. One in 10 nursing posts are vacant and GP numbers are falling. There is a widespread belief that once again funding, or lack of it, lies at the heart of these problems. NHS funding is planned to grow by 2.3 per cent a year under Theresa May’s government, compared to 3.3 per cent a year under Thatcher and John Major and almost 6 per cent under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. We are in the midst of the most austere decade in NHS history.
In March, May committed to a long-term funding settlement for the NHS. There is a powerful political case for trying to get on the front foot here. Support for the institution is rock solid—77 per cent support the NHS in its current form, a figure that has rarely shifted in two decades, but public satisfaction with care is starting to fall and concerns about the NHS top the worry list for voters—above even Brexit.
Sorting out the NHS will not be easy. A study out this week by the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the Health Foundation has looked at NHS spending pressures over the next 15 years. A rapidly ageing population with more long-term health problems means rising demands on the system. Current spending plans fall…