Mind the gap
The NHS in England deals with more than one million patients every 36 hours – equating to 54.4m people in England alone and 64m people in the UK as a whole.
Funding for the NHS comes directly from taxation. When it first launched in 1948, it had a budget of £437m (roughly £15 billion in today’s value). For 2015/16 the overall NHS budget is approximately £116.4 billion, with NHS England managing the lion’s share of £101.3 billion.
In 2014, a major report into NHS funding – Power to the People: The mutual future of our National Health Service - researched and written by think-tank ResPublica and sponsored by Benenden, attested that the NHS in its current form is not sustainable.
It pointed to a potential funding gap of some £19 billion per annum within 10 years unless drastic measures are taken to restructure the way the NHS operates, including introducing a new way of funding care.
How much is the annual NHS budget figure?
Despite all the publicity around NHS funding in the media and the current and projected future funding shortfalls, our survey respondents were wildly ignorant of the actual annual NHS budget figure of £116bn.
46% of all respondents admitted to not knowing, 10% and 13% respectively guessed £216bn and £316bn. Just 8% got it right.
Younger respondents were more likely to know, with 16% of 18–24 year-olds guessing correctly – the highest percentage to get it right. Just 10% of men and 6% of women guessed correctly, while 38% of men and 53% of women admitted they didn’t know.
Big budgets but tough choices
One of the most popular petitions of 2016 so far has been a call for the Government to fund meningitis B vaccinations for children up to the age of 11 – the petition gathered 823,346 signatures and was debated in Parliament in April this year with the Government concluding only the most vulnerable children should be offered the vaccine on account of cost vs outcome. It would cost the NHS approximately £630m per year to vaccinate all children.
A clearly emotive question was whether the public believe the NHS should make cuts elsewhere to fund these vaccinations.
57% of survey respondents said the NHS should fund the vaccinations with the younger age groups slightly more in favour (64% of 18–24 year-olds, 64% of 25–34 year-olds, dropping to 50% of 45–54 year olds). The percentages might reflect the fact that more of the younger respondents have young children, although this reason is unlikely to account for the 58% of over 55s who also said the NHS should fund the vaccinations. Perhaps more of this age cohort are concerned grandparents? More women than men (62% vs 52%) agreed that the NHS should pick up the vaccination tab.
Should the decisions be left to the experts?
Most people – 65% – were happy to leave it to the experts and policy makers to make the funding decisions about what medical and clinical procedures money should be allocated to. However, 35% indicated that the wider public should also have some say in how funds are allocated. The national split was broadly replicated across the age groups and gender.
30% of people thought this was a good idea to implement a lifetime limit on how much is spent on your NHS care… but a large majority – 70%, were not convinced, with virtually no differing of opinion between men and women.
Find out more about what our research revealed by reading the full National Health Report.