Winter Crisis and the NHS – letter in Yorkshire Evening Post

17 January 2018

Dear Sir,

Dark winter nights are traditionally the time for sharing myths and telling tall tales. For example, in relation to the NHS winter crisis, the government insists that health care is well financed despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Those ideologically opposed to public services blame inefficiency, while a few incriminate migrants. From its foundation up to the year 2010 the NHS always received an annual funding settlement that took account of growing pressures from such factors as an increasing population, more elderly and chronic sick, and new treatments. This rising demand was met by a 4% annual funding increase; reduced for the past eight years to only 1%. The government states correctly that it is giving the NHS more money, while obscuring the reality that a 1% uplift represents an unprecedented funding squeeze, building to a deficit of £22bn by 2020. Together with cuts in social care this is the reason for the current crisis, with hospital overcrowding, cancelled operations, missed targets and staff shortages. Although the world’s 6th largest economy, the UK spends much less per head on health than Germany or France – and less than half the US or Switzerland. Internationally, NHS efficiency is widely recognized, for example by the US Commonwealth Fund that compares different health systems in advanced countries. Health economists generally look at the NHS with amazement at how much it delivers for so little. While the NHS is efficient, the current market in health care is both costly and unnecessary, and of no benefit to patients. Care for overseas visitors is estimated at around 0.3% of total budget. The Government recently introduced charges for migrants, but the cost of collection is proving to be greater than the income generated. The real objective is getting us used to the idea that charging for health care and denying some people treatment is normal. NHS cuts are a political choice, and we could choose to spend more and prioritise health for everyone. It is time for the British public to sweep away the myths and demand that we return to a properly resourced health service before we find ourselves in a land of permanent winter.

Yours sincerely,

Dr John Puntis
Leeds Keep Our NHS Public


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