Tuesday, November 2, 2010

NHS - Prevention and Cure

The Coalition has pledged to give the NHS a real-terms increase in funding, but the delivery against that pledge falls some way short of what's necessary to meet the public's expectation of a good health service. The increase in funding is only 0.1% above inflation each year for four years. Woopee-doo. Over that period, the NHS must pay for a massive reorganization as well as deal with an ageing population and a rising birthrate.
Unlike most sectors, the development of new technologies increases treatment costs rather than reduces them.

Compounding these pressures on the health service is the increasingly sedentary UK lifestyle, leading to increased levels of obesity and lack of excercise with its plethora of related diseases.

Preventing disease is a lot better (and cheaper) than curing it. You would hope the Government would be keen to do something  about obesity, given it can't do much about the cost of medical technology, the rising birthrate or the numbers of elderly people (except by cutting winter heating allowance).

But instead, as part of the "Festival of Cuts" it is abolishing the agencies that could make the nation healthier. Cycling England is being axed, as are local authority budgets. Free swimming is one of the first things to go. Other leisure services will likely be next in line. Cycling funding has been merged with other budgets, which will enable local authorities to spend nothing at all on cycling. Local authorities are not responsible for the nation's health, so why would they spend money combating obesity when their core functions are under extreme budgetary pressure?

It's beginning to become clear how the coalition's policies are going to affect the nation's health. On the one hand, the health budget is being restricted given the increasing demands on it, and on the other hand, the budgets for sport, keeping fit and active travel are being reduced. In addition, reduced spending on road safety and the removal of speed cameras will have predictable effects on road casualties.

This is not a health policy. It's negligence.

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