NHS funding an issue?

Will NHS funding keep taking a larger share of the budget?

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Does the government need to change the way the NHS is funded?

By Joe Harker

The National Institute of Economic and Social Research has told chancellor of the exchequer Philip Hammond that he needs to overhaul the tax system and find a new way to raise more money for the NHS. They have warned him that the UK will be unable to balance the books in future years unless it is able to raise more money, as an ageing population will require more money spent on health.

A report from the Institute of Fiscal Studies showed that health spending has risen from 23 per cent of public service spending in 2000 to 29 per cent in 2010 and is projected to increase to 38 per cent by 2023-24. It is eating up more of the government's budget and will continue to increase as the population grows and ages. Other public services are feeling the squeeze as more money is needed for the NHS.

Andy Cowper of the Health Service Journal has pointed out that the extra money the government has set aside for the NHS in the most recent budget has come from borrowing. He also argues that the UK's low predicted rate of GDP growth is a concern as it means the economy will not grow enough to accommodate the required increase in spending.

The Spectator argues that "Britain became a health service with a country attached to it". They believe it will continue to gobble up a larger portion of public spending at the detriment of other departments who still need to make cuts. They also argue that money spent on the NHS needs to be put towards modernising it, suggesting a hospital visit "can often feel like a bizarre throwback to a pre-computer age".

Writing in The Times, Madeline Grant argues that people are kidding themselves over the NHS and must accept that it needs change. The NHS needs more money and will continue to do so, but the country needs to find that money and work out how it can fund the health service. Just throwing money at it may not be the solution, as it will require ever increasing payments that eat up more public spending.

Increasing taxes may be the only option available to the government, and is something the British public actually agree with. People rarely welcome increases in tax but the public understand that the NHS needs more money and are willing to contribute to ensure the future of public health.

However, there was nothing in the most recent budget that suggested there would be tax increases to help the NHS. Instead he announced a tax cut that will benefit richer people more. There needs to be more money made available, how long until the government actually does something that treats the symptom and not the cause?

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The Times

Health spending and our 'inefficient' NHS

Sir, Madeline Grant ("Let's stop kidding ourselves about the NHS", Comment, Nov 1) is right that we need a new political debate about health in our country, but how we fund health spending is not the most pressing issue. Given that a great deal of the increasing NHS caseload results from factors that are to some extent within our control (alcohol-related illness, obesity, inactivity and so on) it would be entirely feasible for the government to set a long-term target for reducing spending on the NHS while we as a nation become fitter, healthier and less dependent on medical support.

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