Lessons for the NHS

December 9, 2005

The announcement that more National Health Service trusts are desperate for money again leads to the questions of how and why?

In 1950, the annual cost of the NHS was about £350 million: the monetary-inflationary equivalent of this today is under £9 billion; less than an eighth of the current £74 billion going down the disease money-pit.

The NHS founders, dazzled by the emerging wonders of modern medicine and believing that the reason people were sick was lack of treatment, genuinely hoped that the cost would decline as the population became healthier.

The nation's health has deteriorated since day one of the NHS. Half the population are now chronically ill. We now have well over 30,000 diseases: 40 per cent of the population have, or will develop, cancer. We have, I believe, passed the 1 billion NHS prescriptions-dispensed-per-year mark: 22 million people are on repeat prescriptions.

The economic-disease gridlock is inevitable. As there is nothing wrong with the concept of a nationalised health facility, the practice must be to blame. The NHS founders made the disastrous decision to hand the reins of the service to the antipathic orthodoxy with its obsessional belief that the problem to be faced was one of conducting a "war on disease" using the human body as a passive battlefield.

How much longer is it going to take to sink in that one cannot run a successful health facility on a basis of pharmaceuticals, radiation, invasive tests and conveyor-belt surgery? How much longer before the health movement is asked to formulate a national health policy as a basis for a damage-limitation effort? This would cost a fraction of what the NHS is now swallowing.

Pat Rattigan

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