Updated: Dec 18, 2019
Currently, healthcare and the NHS accounts for the second largest area of spend for the government, reaching £116.4 billion in 2015/16. Despite this, prior to the Brexit referendum, hospitals were recorded a deficit of £2.45 billion. (A research by Simpkin and Mossialos, researchers affiliated with the London School of Economics and Political Science and, Imperial College London).
What led to this deficit and how are the finances going to change post-Brexit?
The current deficit is due to multiple reasons; from clinical demand growing due to an ageing population, social care funding being cut and medicines and health technologies increasing in cost. If we recall the argument from the UK Leave campaign argument during 2016, they said that £350 million a week could be saved from the UK’s contribution to the EU. However, this promise was immediately disowned after the referendum.
With the issue of finance, comes the issue of staffing. As I’m sure you are all aware, the shortage of healthcare staff in the NHS is becoming a crisis. For every 100,000 people in the UK, there are only 278 doctors.
This data is from 2017, and since then, the number of doctors has dropped (for reasons which will be discussed).
Four out of five doctors-in-training report that their job causes them excessive stress; a factor which has led to many doctors leaving the NHS.
I’m sure you’re starting to get a small insight into just how overstretched and overworked the NHS staff are. But, should Brexit take place, there is potential for the situation to worsen.
With no access to the single market, a trade bloc where most trading barriers have been removed, and limits to immigration, the number of staff available may decrease. As to how the Tories plan to retain the 95 percent A&E ‘target’ remains somewhat a mystery.
Party Manifestos concerning Health Policies have been recently released and covers all aspects from the NHS and dentistry, to social care, mental health and much more.
In terms of the Workforce, the Conservatives say that it will be a priority to ensure 140,000 EU health professionals can continue to work in the NHS. There are approximately 144,000 EU health and care workers in England. They say staff will be supported to develop the skills and needs of the staff and overall NHS.
Labour do not quantify the number of EU professionals they hope to keep in the country as they say that the right of EU nationals working in health and care services to stay in the UK ‘will be guaranteed’. It is stated that the NHS pay cap will be scrapped and bursaries and funding for health-related degrees would be reintroduced.
The Liberal Democrats state similar items in their manifesto; they say that the rights of EU staff in the NHS and social care will be guaranteed. Furthermore, the public sector pay freeze for NHS staff will be ended, student nursing bursaries reinstated and innovative social enterprises delivering community and mental health services introduced.
So what does this all mean for patients, the public body and users of the NHS?
The Conservative party are promising to increase NHS funding by £20 billion in real terms over the next five years. They will pilot the live publication of waiting times, ensure ‘appropriate’ funding for GPs and improve general standards of the NHS buildings and care of patients. By 2020 they will deliver on commitments to ensure cancer diagnoses are provided within 28 days.
Labour have commited to £30 billion in extra funding over the course of the next parliament - through increasing income tax on the ‘highest 5% of earners’ and increasing tax on private medical insurance. That’s increasing the tax significantly on everyone earning over £70,000 in the UK. They ‘will deliver the Cancer Stratergy’ for England in full by 2020, phase out same sex wards, set up a new £250 million Children’s Health Fund to tackle obesity, under-fives, dental and mental health and reverse privatisation of any healthcare.
The Liberal Democrats have said there will be an immediate 1p rise on Income Tax to raise £6 billion additional revenue - to be spent only on the NHS and social care services. In the longer term, this will be replaced by a dedicated health and care tax, possibly based on a reform of National Insurance contributions. They have not specifically commented on any new models of care but say they will provide additional investment in mental health, support schemes like Think Ahead. This scheme encourages high-achieving graduates to pursue a career in mental health and social work. Towards the end, the Lib Dems note strategies to tackle current epidemics, like child obesity, with management of advertising and marketing and the review of sugar tax.
Whichever party comes into power after the referendum, there will be changes to the systems we currently have in place. Reformation to our society is not a bad idea, so long as the plans of action are carried out in the best way possible.
Now that we have reached the end of the third article of this series, and with a brief overview and understanding into the current referendum, I do hope you will go forward and vote. Let’s not make a repeat of the results which came out in 2016.