Today the NHS celebrates its 68th Birthday. The NHS or National Health Service was formed in 1948 to provide healthcare free to all UK citizens. The original principles where that it was to be financed from central taxation, care was entirely free at the point of use and that everyone was eligible for care, even those with temporary residence in the UK or visiting the country.
When the NHS was launched it was originally given a budget of £437 million (£15 billion at today’s value.) Whereas in 2016 the overall NHS budget is £116.4 billion. Moreover, in the last 20 years the budget has increased by roughly 96%, and is now 20% of the governments spending per year. Therefore, the question must be asked, at what point is the NHS a failing service, whose budget is no longer feasible? Even if the NHS was capped at its current level of spending, many are petitioning to increase the budget on an almost yearly basis, claiming the NHS is constantly underfunded, even though they cannot agree on where this funding will be drawn from within government spending.
In comparison to the NHS’ ever increasing budget, The Institute for Fiscal Studies forecasts a funding cut of 7% per pupil in education throughout the United Kingdom by 2020, as well as forcing every primary and secondary school to become an academy by 2022. Although academies may have some minor benefits, they allow a potential dictatorship by the head, as well as a complete relaxation in monitoring of the school through organisations such as OFSTED, all in an attempt to save money. Yet, this appears completely counter intuitive. After conducting extensive research, Dr D. Cutler from Harvard university found that those with an additional 4 years of education (completing education aged 22) are 12% less likely to smoke, 5% less likely to be obese and on average drink 7 fewer days of 5 or more drinks a year compared to the average 11. Therefore, surely by decreasing the funding for the education department, which is down to a measly 12% of the governments budget per year, the government is just creating an increase in the strain on the NHS in 20 or so years time.
Not only will cuts to the education sector increase the burden on the National Health Service in the long run, it could also potentially lead to an increasing rate of unemployment and a further decrease in the UK’s productivity. As shown by the Bureau of Labour Statistics and Institute for Study of Labour respectively. The UK is currently infamous for its poor productivity; cuts to education cannot be beneficial, especially with the UK already being 10th in the world, in respects to its GDP per hours worked, even though it’s the 5th in GDP ranking. Furthermore, in the United Kingdoms current state, in terms of the recent referendum, surely it cannot be wise to jeopardise the next generation’s future to a greater degree by limiting their education. Although the “grey vote” may initially complain about funding being directed away from them, unless the UK improves its productivity; there is a risk that the funding for the NHS may have to come out of pensions, instead of corporation tax etc. Therefore, by funding education, in the long run it will prevent the need to increase its financing from other government sectors in the future.
Although controversial, there is a possible solution, to both the issue of the steadily increasing burden of the NHS and the declining focus on education. It would first start by capping the NHS’ budget on £116.6 billion for the next decade or so, only adjusted to the price of inflation. Therefore, reducing the risk of the NHS gaining an out of control budget. The money that would have been spent on “saving” the NHS can then be transferred into the education sector, which, in the long run will lead to the increased health of the UKS citizens, increased productivity and reduced unemployment. However, the reform does not stop at purely capping one budget and transferring the money into another sector. As mentioned earlier in this article, the NHS currently provides free health care for those with temporary residence in the UK and those who are just visiting. Due to the UK planning on leaving the European Union, they are no longer required to offer free health service to non-UK citizens. Although some may argue this move is unnecessary, at the current state that the NHS is in, any money saved will be worthwhile, and one again, this money saved in the NHS should be transferred into the education sector, encouraging more students to go into further education, whether through university or apprenticeships. Furthermore, there are an increasing number of assaults against staff members in the NHS, with a total of 67,000 assaults in 2014/2015. By charging those who assault or harass staff members (but are mentally stable), it will both provide an disincentive for assault staff members and provide extra revenue for the NHS.
The NHS is in need of great reform, that will not come from pouring more money into it, yet the educational system is in dire need of greater funding. The obvious solution is therefore to stop increasing funding for a failing service, but instead reform it so that it does not have to be privatised, and increase funding for the education sector which is vital for the future of this country, as children, are quite literally, the future.