The UK’s National Health Service is facing a potential £2 billion shortfall for 2015-16, with about 80 percent of hospital trusts expected to post losses. This is raising concerns that the system’s finances are currently unsustainable. David Bennett, a chief regulator in the UK’s health system, has instructed NHS foundation trusts to review their budgets for places to cut money and has said that they should only fill “essential” vacant staff positions. The government has promised to spend £8bn more annually on the service, but also requested £22bn in cuts.
Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents NHS trusts, said: “What’s happened is that demand in the NHS has grown by 4 per cent per year—and it’s done that ever since the NHS was first founded—and whilst the government has increased funding over the last six years, it’s only been by 1 per cent, so we now have this 3 per cent gap,” Mr Hopson told BBC Radio 4’sToday programme.“We’re now in a position where if we’re going to make the NHS budget in 2015/16, we need to do some really urgent things and what the letter from Monitor says is, to all trust chief executive and to trust boards, is to think carefully about any vacancies that are currently not filled and whether they should be filled or not.”
Hopson added that the NHS’ financial situation will become even more pressing during the coming winter.
The health care crisis, as we’ve pointed out before, is to some degree a global phenomenon. No matter what kind of system one has, costs are rising across the industrialized world. Having a more public system doesn’t appear to halt that trend. The U.S. and the rest of the West are in the same position in that respect: Governments need to find ways of making health care cheaper and better by revamping outdated and dysfunctional service delivery. If they don’t, the NHS fiscal crisis may seem mild next to what the future holds for the health care systems of the industrialized world.