The Future of the NHS And Healthcare In The UK
Posted on: 16 August 2018 by Morgan Franklin
The NHS has suffered many challenges in recent years, with annual crises in the winter, huge, and ever growing, waiting lists, underfunded mental health services, poorly paid nurses, tumultuous relations between the Government and junior doctors, and an ageing population. Despite all of that, it remains a treasured national institution which appears to be around for the long haul, but what does its future look like.
In the early 20th century, healthcare in the UK was very much a commodity. A patchy, unequal network of hospitals created a postcode lottery as the quality of the healthcare one could actually access. Community healthcare centres had to rely on consultants volunteering, and receiving income from other private streams. The most affluent received treatment in the privacy of their home or in expensive nursing homes, and hospitals carried a similar stigma to work houses. And monumentally costly treatments, and poor wages, meant that only the wealthy could afford them.
In 1948, the Labour Government led by Clement Attlee changed that forever, creating a new system of universal, free at the point of use healthcare for everyone in the country. With Aneurin Bevan as Minister for Health, the National Health Service was created, funded entirely by taxpayers, the system would be there to provide emergency care to any and all who needed it. This NHS transformed the face of British society, and was of huge benefit to the lives of millions of people.
Many people alive today do not know a world before the NHS - which is now in it’s 70th year - but those who do have many personal stories about the struggles they faced under the previous system, and about how the health service has changed all of that. Life expectancy has rocketed as a result and it is often called one of the world’s greatest healthcare systems, and the best out of the wealthiest nations. Despite rising costs, it is still one of the most cost effective methods of delivering healthcare, with the UK ranking below other nations in terms of the proportion of GDP spent on health.
And yet, it is not without its pressures. The NHS has suffered many challenges in recent years, with annual crises in the winter, huge, and ever growing, waiting lists, underfunded mental health services, poorly paid nurses, tumultuous relations between the Government and junior doctors, and an ageing population. Despite all of that, it remains a treasured national institution which appears to be around for the long haul, but what does its future look like.
In an extremely significant move, Britain’s Conservative Government - which has long trumpeted the need for austerity and restrictions on public spending - conceded to calls for additional funding for the NHS, pledging a £20bn funding boost over the next few years. Whilst speculation has been rife about how this will be paid for - and continued talk about a dedicated NHS tax dominating newspaper column inches - this plan has been criticised as being insufficient, and has been slammed as merely making up for years of cuts and underinvestment, rather than furthering the service, by NHS chiefs.
The NHS is also being helped to move forwards, and to better tackle its challenges, by the march of technology. The new Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, recently announced a £487mn investment in new technology for the NHS to make best use of new opportunities. And there are many ways in which new innovations can change the way we treat health, from 3d printed organs, to wearable technology capable of remotely monitoring vital signs and diagnosing illness early.
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