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NHS spending should match best of Europe, say doctors

Investment could fund more beds and thousands of GPs

Jo Carlowe

Monday, 06 March 2017

Leading doctors have today called for extra NHS funding to pay for thousands more hospital beds and to recruit an extra 10,000 GPs.

In the run up to Wednesday’s budget, in a letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the chair of the British Medical Association’s Council, highlights new analysis from the BMA, which argues for an increase in the UK’s health spending as a proportion of GDP to match that of other leading European economies.

The analysis has shown that the ten leading economies across Europe* spend an average of 10.4% of their GDP on health on the current Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) definition, in comparison with the UK’s 9.8%.

According to this, the UK’s spending on health in 2015 should have been £10.3 billion higher than it was.

Using this figure, the analysis notes additional funding could be used to:

  • Provide an extra 35,000 NHS beds every day;
  • Recruit an extra 10,000 GPs, along with other healthcare professionals, and improve GP facilities so that practices can host more staff and deliver additional appointments to patients;
  • Reverse the cuts already made to the public health budget rather than introduce further reductions of almost 4% up until 2020.

The latest analysis comes as the BMA also called on ministers to close the £30 billion funding gap for the NHS in England by the end of the current parliament.

Writing in the letter, Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair, said: “The crisis currently facing the NHS and social care is well known and becoming increasingly severe – the government cannot remain a bystander any longer.

“An entire system under such strain is not due to front-line financial mismanagement, or individual chief executives’ poor decision making, it is due to the conscious underinvestment in our health service.”

He added: “Our members report that services are truly at breaking point, with unprecedented rising patient demand met only with financial restraint and directives for the NHS and social care to make huge, unachievable savings through Sustainability & Transformation Plans across England.

“We are not calling for more than other comparable nations, we are simply calling for you to match the average spending of other leading European economies. Based on our analysis of the figures available, this would, in 2015, have equated to an increase of £10.3 billion for NHS funding; an increase which is desperately needed.”

Commenting, a Department of Health spokesperson told OnMedica: "We are committed to the NHS, which is why total health spending is above the OECD average as a percentage of GDP, and why we are investing £10 billion in the NHS's own plan for the future, including almost £4 billion this year. 

"What's more, the NHS was ranked the best and most efficient healthcare system in the world by the independent Commonwealth Fund, showing that we make every bit of spending count”.

* The 10 leading EU countries based on GDP per capita are: Germany; France; Belgium; Denmark; Austria; Netherlands; Ireland; Italy; Sweden and Finland (excl. Luxembourg)

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