View all newsletters
Sign up to our newsletters

Support 110 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. Health
31 May 2018updated 05 Oct 2023 8:35am

The Tories’ policies made an NHS crisis inevitable

Austerity and the net migration target have left a £1bn deficit and 93,000 unfilled health vacancies.

By George Eaton

The National Health Service is drifting towards its 70th birthday in an enfeebled state. Hospital trusts are unable to meet their spending obligations: a deficit of £960m was recorded for 2017/18 – nearly twice the expected figure of £496m. There are now 93,000 NHS posts unfilled – 1,518 visa applications by foreign doctors were rejected in the four months to March.

There is no mystery about the source of these maladies. In the latter case, the government’s arbitrary net migration target of “tens of thousands” a year (which Theresa May has long championed) severely restricts non-EU immigration. Though the target has never been met in the 97 months since it was proclaimed, it has imposed severe costs.

A dearth of workers has been accompanied by a dearth of funding. Though the Conservatives like to boast that NHS spending has been “protected” since 2010, the health service has in fact endured the longest period of austerity in its history.

Since 1950, health expenditure has grown at an average annual rate of 4 per cent; over the last parliament it rose by an average of just 0.5 per cent. An ageing population, the rising cost of drugs and technology and the growth of chronic conditions, such as obesity and diabetes, all mean that the NHS depends on above-inflation increases. The £4.5bn cut to social care funding has only intensified the pressure on the service (forcing the NHS to act as a provider of last resort).

Before last November’s Budget, health leaders warned that this fiscal famine could not endure. Simon Stevens, the NHS chief executive, requested a minimum increase of £4bn in 2018 (far below the £18.2bn – or £350m a week – promised by the Leave campaign). “2018, which happens to be the 70th anniversary of the NHS, is poised to be the toughest financial year,” he warned.

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

After nearly a decade of austerity, Stevens noted, Britain was underfunding the health service by £20-30bn compared to comparable countries such as Germany, France and Sweden. But Philip Hammond offered just £1.6bn for this year – less than half the amount Stevens demanded. Patients have borne the cost in delayed operations, cancelled appointments and bed reductions.

Mindful of the NHS’s landmark birthday, Theresa May intends to announce a spending increase of three per cent a year, a sum that by the time of the next election would amount to an extra £350m a week.

This, however, is still short of the average historic increase of 4 per cent a year – the amount experts believe the NHS requires merely to stand still.

In 2002, Gordon Brown rose National Insurance by 1p to pay for the largest-ever increase in NHS funding (£40bn). In the years that followed, patient satisfaction reached record levels. Nearly two decades later, as the service daily declines, the need for a new financial settlement has never been greater.

Whatever the Prime Minister eventually announces will be inadequate compensation for the avoidable misery of the last eight years.

Content from our partners
How to tackle the UK's plastic pollution problem – with Coca-Cola
The hard truth about soft skills
Why we need a national employment service

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU