Health and the NHS

The hot topics in the health agenda this week are the NHS, unsurprisingly, but also the day to day health of Britons.

The Tories have vowed to outspend Labour on the NHS, but I thought that NHS standards were still falling even though New Labour have put more money into the NHS than ever before? In fact Gordon Brown has increased spending on the NHS overall by £40billion since 2002.

Surely the clever thing to pledge is to make existing money go further to economise and improve efficiency in the service.

According to the Telegraph some Tory right wingers agree with this view:

It risks angering Tory right-wingers who think Labour has wasted taxpayers’ money on public services and want David Cameron to fight the next election promising tax cuts. Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2008/02/28/ntory428.xml

These tax cuts however, are looking less likely because shadow Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, has said the Tories plan to increase NHS spending by £28billion a year.

One question of course, is where this money will magically come from, but according to Mr Lansley the funds will come from “tough” cuts in other government services, though the report doesn’t make it clear which services or what “tough” means.

Along with this announcement comes news that the NHS faces a £1.8billion surplus, a mere 2.8% of turnover, according to details released by the Department of Health.

The issue raised here, aside from why the Tories would want to put more money into a service already underspending, is why patients are being refused vital treatments on financial grounds if there is ‘money to burn’.

Though no one seems to have an answer, the Times reports the NHS has turned a £547million deficit in 2005/6 into a £515million surplus in only a year, and because increases in efficiency have been to effective the surplus has reached these recently announced unprecedented high levels. Source: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article3479152.ece

Therefore the Tories proposals, which are likely to put David Cameron and his Shadow Chancellor George Osbourne under a lot of pressure from back-benchers, will most likely be re-thought since more money in a service in surplus makes no economic sense without a complex re-structuring of the distribution of funds.

The second issue in the press is the fact people are not going to the gym as much as they used to, partly because the celebrity mums on TV make women feel bad about themselves (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2008/03/02/nyummy102.xml).

The golden age of the treadmill has passed, and the British public has turned to eating healthily as a replacement for working off those problem pounds.

The Times reports:

Five years ago, when gyms and health clubs were at the peak of their popularity, 8.7 million of us in Britain were members. But statistics from the accountancy firm Deloitte reveal that 54,000 fewer people took out gym membership during 2007 than they had 18 months previously.

The real question at the end of all this is: are people becoming less interested in their health and more in whether things are healthy or not? (regardless whether they are eating them or doing them)