Over the last few years, the public have been rattled by stories of NHS crises’: dangerous overstretching of staff and budget, expenditure cuts, lost jobs, and strikes (to name a few). Many now hold the belief that the NHS has reached such a crisis point, it has become exorbitant to the extent that it is unlikely to last past the next decade. Could this be a reality?
I am focusing on the long-term. The fact is, with constantly fluctuating economic circumstances, we will always face periods of growth and recession and so will inevitably have times where we have to cut our NHS budget. Our population is set on a long-term path of growth, predicted to reach 70 million by 2030, only aided by new medicines that cure diseases, a trend of immigration and generally higher disposable incomes enabling families the financial freedom to grow. The rate of growth in our Government’s budget available for the NHS is already being outstripped by the rate of increasing demand due to these factors.
Looking at the long-term legitimacy of the current ideas implemented: budget cuts, reallocation of funds, higher productivity, one thing I would argue is that these options are not suitable for the sustaining the NHS in the long-haul. No amount of moving money around or cutting expenses will be enough to quell the costs of huge increasing demand, from an ever-increasing population. Even if our available budget increased at an equal rate to the demand (which would have to be a great speed); as previously mentioned we will most certainly face periods of economic downturn where austerity may be necessary and budgets will reduce again. In short; our answer lies outside monetary solutions.
So, here’s the million-dollar question: how on Earth are we going to keep funding the NHS?
I would like to suggest a different idea:
make our people healthier.
At first, a conclusion like this may sound vague, immeasurable, unobtainable, or perhaps illogical, but I would argue it is our only viable long-term solution.
74% of all illness and diseases in the UK are caused by poor lifestyle/health choices.
Economically, it makes sense: if there is no way to increase supply, our only logical option is to try to reduce demand, an aspect proven we can control by making healthier lifestyle decisions. Biologically, it is actually in our basic nature to be eating naturally and committing to some form of regular exercise!
In terms of sustainability, if we could change the mind-sets and therefore lifestyles of just 10% of this 74, a huge burden could be lifted off the NHS in the short term, and we could completely alter the rate of increase of demand over time, lowering it to a much more sustainable number.
On the other hand, if we continue to live high-stress, sedentary lives with high sugar and artificial diets it is highly likely illness will balloon even higher than it already has done. We can see evidence of our general declining health in the lowering of our life-expectancy in recent years reported throughout the UK and through the US.
Just some food for thought!