You may share my confusion about the National Health Service. There’s so much evidence of crisis, and yet recent experience of the NHS continues to be good. What’s going on? What can you do? There is a crisis, and its root cause is clear: deliberate underfunding by the UK Government. Our spending on health is 8.5% of GDP – well below most other developed countries (Germany 11%, EU average 10.1%).
Overall, the NHS is delivering a remarkably good service on a relatively tight budget, and despite its many other challenges (privatisation ambiguity, deluge of initiatives, over-administration and more). But forecasts of the growing health problems of our ageing population are terrifying in relation to current capacity and spending problems.
I’ve often felt helpless about the stress on NHS staff, and the uncertainty over health care that we all face. However, let’s look at some positive responses:
1. Take more care of your own health: NHS obesity data shows that 25% of UK adults take less than 30 minutes exercise per week!
2. Get involved in lobbying and consultations over NHS plans in your area, such as Clinical Commissioning Group proposals for ‘service improvements,’ which usually include service cuts too.
3. Do what you can to support national calls for decent NHS funding. For example, check out www.38degrees.org.uk for info on what’s being proposed, petitions, and alternative proposals.
4. Strengthen your contacts and commitment in your local community. If the capacity of the NHS continues to be overstretched, one way to fill the gap is by neighbours and local voluntary groups.
It does feel as if life generally is getting riskier, and the holes in the NHS safety net certainly add to that. but try to treat it as a positive call to resilience.