This article, commissioned and published by The Lancet, considers the rising demand and cost pressures for the NHS and how these might be addressed under the parties’ plans for public spending over the next few years.
It is remarkable that over the current parliament, while total spending by government departments on public services has been cut by 10%, the Department of Health (DH) has seen its budget increased by over 6%. This favourable treatment has increased the severity of the squeeze felt by other departments, with many having seen their budgets cut by 20% or more over just five years. In 2009–10 the DH accounted for just over one-quarter of all departmental spending; in 2015–16 it is expected to account for nearly one-third.
Yet it is further increased funding for the NHS over the next parliament that is never far from the top of the political agenda in the run up to the general election in May. The repeated calls for above-inflation increases in spending on the NHS over the next parliament arise from concern over the demand and cost pressures faced by the NHS. The growing and ageing population increase demand for NHS services, as does an increasing prevalence of chronic conditions and the ability to treat more complex conditions. The NHS also typically faces above-inflation pressures on its budget from rising wages and high-cost drugs. To meet these pressures without reducing quality would require either increases in real (inflation-adjusted) funding, increases in productivity, or both.
View the original, submitted article here.