The 10-year plan to save the NHS

Life support: NHS bosses say the plan could save up to 500,000 lives in a decade.

What will the NHS look like in 10 years? Yesterday, the government attempted to answer that question when it unveiled a long-term plan for the extra £20 billion of funding promised to doctors.

Last year, the National Health Service (NHS) celebrated its 70th birthday. Prime Minister Theresa May gave it a present: £20.5 billion of extra funding a year by 2023. Yesterday, the NHS explained how it would spend it.

Around £2.3 billion will go towards mental health care. Another £4.5 billion will go to GPs and “community care”.

Meanwhile, advances in genomics will mean more personalised medicine. For example, children with cancer will get DNA tests to find out which treatments will work best.

The plan also promised to improve the early diagnosis of cancer, potentially saving 55,000 extra lives.

This is all part of a plan to shift the focus of the NHS. The old saying that “prevention is better than cure” is now its official policy. If the population is healthy, or illnesses can be caught early, less money will be spent on expensive treatments later. And of course, it is better for patients that way.

But it will not be easy. The NHS is currently short of around 100,000 doctors, nurses and other staff. The UK’s population of over-85s is set to double in the next 20 years.

Finally, the plan asks people to take more responsibility for their own health. Doctors can tell people to exercise or quit smoking all they like; in the end, they cannot force them.

Doctor, doctor

Most people agree that the NHS needs reform. But how? In the end, who is actually responsible for your health? You? Your doctor? The government? What about fast food companies? The NHS cannot create a healthy country all by itself.

Then there is the problem of funding. Around 90% of people believe in the NHS’s grand vision: free healthcare for everyone, funded by taxes. But no matter how much money is spent, it always needs more. Is it worth it? Or should we pay for some treatments? If so, which ones?

You Decide

  1. Should seeing a doctor always be free?

Activities

  1. Imagine you have been given the task of reorganising the NHS over the next 10 years. Write a list of the five changes that you would make first. This could mean new technology, different kinds of funding, new priorities, or anything else you can think of.

Some People Say...

“The NHS is the closest thing the English have to a religion.”

Nigel Lawson

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The extra funding for the NHS represents a budget increase of around 3.4% per year from this year onwards. That is more than it has received in the last 10 years, but well below the 4% recommended by experts.
What do we not know?
Whether the funding increase will therefore be enough to keep improving the NHS. Some people think that a much bigger rethink needs to happen.

Word Watch

National Health Service
Founded in 1948, the NHS is the UK’s vast healthcare system. It includes hospitals, GPs, and other specialist services. It employs 1.5 million people and treats one million patients in England every 36 hours. Most of its services are free to use for UK citizens and funded by taxation.
Genomics
The science of genomes (a living creature’s complete set of DNA). Understanding a person’s genome could help doctors to spot diseases, or see which conditions they are most likely to get.
Diagnosis
Identifying an illness.

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