In order to stop the healthcare system from “collapsing by 2020”, senior members of the Liberal Democrat Party are predicting that the NHS will require an additional £30bn of funding over the next several years. Despite cuts to most public services since 2008, the Coalition Government has mostly avoided cuts to the NHS. However, due to a number of factors including increased demand for services and rising costs, a number of politicians predict that simply “not cutting” the budget will not be enough to cover the shortfall in funding.
Senior members of the Liberal Democrats have suggested that an NHS tax be introduced as a possible solution. This idea is also being supported by a number of members of the Labour Party. Paul Burstow, former health minister and member of the Liberal Democrat Party, recently commented on the current state of the Health System: “They are being crushed under the inexorable pressures of rising demand, technological change, new medicines, non-communicable disease, an ageing population and public finances still in intensive care – we’re standing at a cliff edge, staring at the waves crashing on the rocks below.” Burstow predicts that Social Care alone will require an extra £7bn of funding by 2021.
Meanwhile, members of the Conservative Party have more mixed opinions, with some fully in favour of the tax, whilst others, such as Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, are much more sceptical about the £30bn figure. This also raises questions about the possible privatisation of the NHS and whether this is something that the government will consider over the next several years, but with the health system already under immense pressure, it’s very difficult to see how this would work in reality.
In other news, on Monday 28th July The Sun newspaper released an investigation into the NHS “crisis”, again underlining the increased demand for NHS services in the last 5 years. For example, 60% more drugs are being prescribed in 2014 compared to 2004 and GP’s are conducting 40 million more consultations than they were in 2009. In the worst-affected areas, up to 20% of people can’t even get an appointment with their GP.
Both news stories highlight the increasing struggles encountered by the NHS on a daily basis, which brings the level of service that the NHS can realistically expect to provide over the next seven years into question, particularly if billions of pounds’ worth of additional funding are not found.