Two health heavy weights have locked horns discussing the plans to ring fence NHS funding.
John Appleby, Chief Economist at the Kings Fund argues that the alternative to the governments plans to ring fence is just too painful whilst David Hunter, Professor of Health Policy and Management at Durham University, argues that, far from improving the public’s health, ring fencing may have the opposite effect.
In a recent paper of Appleby’s published in the British Medical Journal stated that if the NHS were not protected it would have to find cuts amounting to around 14% of its budget, roughly £18bn over the next few years. To understand just how significant the cuts would have to be the NHS could achieve these figures by cutting staff pay by 30% and sacking all consultants and general practitioners.
Appleby’s paper makes note of a recent poll which suggested 82% of people said the NHS should not be cut with just 2% saying it should.
On the flip side, David Hunter suggests that far from improving the publics health, ring fencing may well have the opposite effect. He believes intead of spending downstream at the reactive stage of the process when individuals are ill more money needs to be spent upstream on promoting healthy living preventing lifestyle illnesses which are draining the NHS budgets.
Without a ring fence Hunter believes the NHS could take public health and health inequalities seriously, ensuring their resources are directed in the most efficient manner in the areas with the biggest payoff.
Investing in health will reduce the long-term cost of delivering public healthcare.The complex nature of the UK healthcare system has once again been highlighted by these opposing views. Although most now agree the current model cannot be sustainable in the long run.
We have seen over recent years a change in the health insurance market with many insurers incentivising healthy living and eating with discounted premiums or rewarding members points. There needs to be a fundamental change in the way we as a nation percieve not only the NHS but ourselves and our own habits. We as a nation need to embrace healthy living, with good healthy food and exercise, it will take such a fundemental change to ensure the future of the NHS.