In the midst of the general election is a heated row over NHS spending, but contrary to popular belief, the fight is not over how to cut spending in order to save us from the massive national deficit but in fact how to safeguard spending and preserve the health budget.
Suggestions are flying around over how to make the service more cost effective but all parties are unanimous on the decision to protect spending. The Liberal Democrats have taken a more prudent tone, claiming that the NHS must shrink its costly and unnecessary managerial ranks.
However, many economic experts argue that in order to deal with the deficit, the government cannot simply bypass the liberally funded NHS. Spending has increased in real terms by over 7 percent each year over the lengthy 13 year labour rule. This is equivalent to going from 3% of national spending to almost 10%.
In a hugely successful television campaign, conservative leader David Cameron has pledged to protect funding for the NHS claiming “I’ll cut the deficit, not the NHS”. Although politicians and economists differ on the means, they all agree that steep cuts are needed in order to battle the budget deficit which is likely to reach 11.8% this year.
Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg claimed “We have to find savings in the NHS,” proposing that a layer of managers be cut and the money redirected into “frontline services.” But in a recent interview, Mr. Clegg cautioned that he doesn’t have plans for “net cuts in the NHS.”
An aging population and rising obesity rates mean that without a cut in spending, the NHS will need to be more efficient with their funding. In 2009, NHS Chief Executive David Nicholson asked health-service managers up to 20 billion of “efficiency savings” by 2014, money he said would be reallocated toward necessary services.
The British Medical Association, the main professional body for doctors agrees with the need for efficiency but warns against any cuts to frontline services. Instead, the NHS should cut its use of management consultants. The Royal College of Nursing agrees, estimating that the NHS in England spent 350 million on management consultants in the latest fiscal year.