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NIESR General Election Briefing: "Is NHS Funding In Crisis?"

Spending on our National Health Service is higher in real terms than ever in its history,  a new briefing by the National Institute highlighted yesterday. However, the NHS is variously predicted to have an aggregate funding shortfall of £20-30 billion by 2020/21 and it remains behind many major industrialized nations, such as France or Germany.

The briefing also outlines that:

  • We now spend an average of £2,160 per person, per year on health care. We also now commit a higher fraction of our GDP to Health Spending than at any time in the past – it has risen from under 3% of GDP in 1955 to 9.8% in 2015.
  • Currently, NHS Trusts in England are in combined deficit to the tune of over £930 million.  At the same time, there has been:  a 60% rise in hospital referrals and a 65% rise in A&E attendances in the last 13 years with a halving of available hospital beds in the last 25 years.
  • Many A&E departments in hospitals now routinely miss their 4-hour maximum wait target and there are record numbers GP vacancies and many GP practices closing. The main driver of these problems is that we have an ageing population who require extra spending as they get older.
  • If we wish to see spending on the NHS rise we will need to increase taxes, or spend a higher fraction of public spending on health (at the expense of some other public service). Alternatively if we wish to see the NHS remain, the same in terms of service delivery, we either need to make substantial efficiency gains, or consent to being charged for certain services.  The main political parties assume the former alternative is possible and shrink from considering the second alternative.
  • The evidence we have suggests that patient satisfaction with the NHS is higher than it has ever been.  The biggest problems patients have with the NHS are that it takes too long to get a GP appointment and that there are not enough staff or resources in the NHS.
  • However, recent research evidence suggests they most of the public are not willing to pay substantially more Income Tax to pay for more NHS funding.

The author of the briefing, NIESR Research Director Peter Dolton wrote:

“It is regrettable than the major political parties seem unwillingly to acknowledge the extent of the NHS funding problem that we have and to fully explore policy alternatives in this field.  As voters, we are encouraged to believe the NHS is safe will each of the parties in this upcoming election, but it is an urgent requirement that they all honestly embrace the financial challenges facing the NHS in the next five years.

Notes for editors:

The full briefing “Is NHS Funding In Crisis?” is available on NIESR’s special General Election page.

For more information or to arrange an interview with the author of this briefing please contact  NIESR Press Office: Paola Buonadonna on 020 7654 1923 /  / 

The briefing was part of a series made possible thanks to funding by the Nuffield Foundation to ensure public debate in the run-up to the General Election is informed by independent and rigorous evidence.

NIESR aims to promote, through quantitative and qualitative research, a deeper understanding of the interaction of economic and social forces that affect people's lives, and the ways in which policies can improve them.

Further details of NIESR’s activities can be seen on  or by contacting . Switchboard Telephone Number: +44 (0) 207 222 7665


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