By and large, the public have little awareness of the impact of what is happening in the NHS, particularly in relation to austerity, budget cuts and social care cuts.
Also, they think it’s more expensive than it actually is. We must understand that the UK spends the second lowest amongst the G7 countries, as far as the GDP is concerned. That’s the kind of thing people don’t understand.
While people seem to know that the NHS is in crisis, they still turn up in unnecessarily large numbers putting pressure on A&Es and putting pressure on GP’s surgeries. My view is, when it comes to their own health, they disregard the funding crisis, as if this is about everyone else, and not themselves. It’s as simple as that.
“George Osborne and now even Theresa May say that the NHS budget is protected, it’s ringfenced. That is not true – it’s a myth”
The NHS is at a more pivotal stage than it ever has been since I became a GP more than 30 years ago. The financial squeeze on our health service will get much tighter over the next five years with spending per person on the NHS falling by 9%.
In 2015, the Institute of Fiscal Studies predicted that even if the NHS budget remained protected from cuts, the cuts we hear about all the time - you heard George Osborne and now even Theresa May saying that the NHS budget is protected, it’s ringfenced. That is not true – it’s a myth. The growth in the population every year, whether it is immigration or indigenous, leads to real big time cuts. Because we can’t cope with the increase in the population. So it’s a myth that the NHS budget is protected.
Even if health spending continued to rise with inflation, the age-adjusted spending per person, as the NHS spends more on a person as they get older, would be 9% lower in 2018. This is evidence based.
“The truth is the so-called ‘efficiency saving’ is just cuts, cuts, cuts”
On top of this, our great friend Jeremy Hunt wants to cut another £22billion by 2020. Simon Stevens, the chief executive of the NHS, when he took over in April 2014, he said to stay still, the NHS need £30billion more. He went to Osborne and eventually Osborne agreed to £8billion – the other £22billion you have to make through efficiency savings. This ‘efficiency saving’ is just a name. The truth is this so-called ‘efficiency saving’ is just cuts, cuts, cuts.
We already know getting a GP appointment is becoming almost impossible. You go to A&E – people are now waiting more than four hours to be seen in almost 80% of A&E admissions.
It’s also a myth that tax receipts are falling. This again is something people don’t understand. The UK doesn’t have a falling tax bill. Receipts on income tax and VAT continue to grow. The UK economic improvement is £12.3billion as of this January, a 5.4% rise on £11.7billion on the same month in 2015. The same is true of VAT – VAT receipts increased by £3.8billion or 3.7% to £108.2billion. They’re both increasing rather than going down.
But none of this makes any difference as the NHS still has to make £22billion in cuts.
There are lots of surveys in which people say they are very happy and willing to pay more tax as long as it’s ringfenced for the NHS – there’s a willingness there. But the real problem is, if the budget for health and social services does not rise in real terms in the next year, then we will see commissioners and providers blacklisting more and more treatment options.
We’re already seeing so many treatments which are now out of bounds or not available to quite a few patients in various CCGs (Clinical Commissioning Groups - are clinically-led statutory NHS bodies responsible for the planning and commissioning of health care services for their local area), whether it is tonsillectomies, cataracts or treatment for glue ear, there are so many things you used to get on the NHS which are no longer available, and that rationing list is increasing by the day.
That means if you’re not rationing, you are essentially increasing the waiting times and waiting lists. They are also going through the roof. These cuts will put the NHS on the brink.