NHS future looks grim – yet politicians still make election promises they can’t keep

fingers crossedIn every UK election in recent years, the financial situation of the NHS has come pretty near the top of the list of concerns among voters. In 2015, the campaign is taking place against a backdrop of five years of financial austerity that has been seriously affecting public services, writes Professor Malcolm Prowle.

Although the NHS was deemed to be “protected” from the pressures of financial austerity, it was left with a tiny amount of growth in resources each year and was also given a target of making £22 billion of efficiency savings over a four-year period. This contrasts sharply with the first 62 years of the life of the NHS when it received substantial increases in funding each year (even if the voters weren’t always aware of this). Not surprisingly, the service is really feeling the strain. Continue reading

The NHS is unsustainable, but the UK is not alone in this issue

hospitalAt the current time, the state of the National Health Service is perhaps the most controversial theme in the on-going general election campaign of 2015 with strong concerns about the lack of funding for UK health services.

However, the UK is not alone in this issue. A recently published international study of healthcare systems (of which I was a co-author) and which covered countries across both the developed and developing world, has suggested that most existing health systems are unlikely to remain sustainable in the absence of additional funding and/or the adoption of new, innovative approaches to delivering healthcare services. Only 9% of respondents indicated that the existing approach to financing health services in their country was sustainable in the long-term while 64% stated that it is unlikely or impossible to continue with the status quo. Continue reading

Spend, spend, spend on education

Christian Weaver, President of Nottingham Trent University's Politics Society

Christian Weaver, President of Nottingham Trent University’s Politics Society

Get a group of people to discuss public spending and you can guarantee that within a few minutes a debate will ensue about how and where tax payers’ money should be prioritised. One conclusion that can be drawn is that the government cannot please everybody.

My opinion? I think education should be at the top of the priority list. But make no mistake; simply throwing more money at our education system will not solve anything. Our education spending should not only be designed to improve educational attainment and outcomes, but should also recognise its role in addressing economic and social needs. Continue reading

Tough calls on the National Health Service

520943253The future of the NHS will clearly be a key issue for the 2015 General Election. Any institution that costs the country so much, and touches so many people’s lives, cannot avoid being a topic for political debate. However, this institution is peculiarly ill-suited to the short-term nature of much British politics. Successive governments have focused on being seen to do something, and on generating favourable media coverage across the electoral cycle. This has resulted in a series of reorganizations and patches since the 1980s. In the policy community, the consequences are widely regarded as chaotic, demoralizing and wasteful. Unfortunately, unless the election has a clear-cut result, this seems likely to continue as coalition partners bargain for baubles or a minority government offers pork-barrel deals to win support from minor parties on specific votes. Continue reading