Unhealthy finances

December 16, 2005

As someone who worked in the National Health Service for 23 years before joining the higher education sector, I disagree with Pat Rattigan's Malthusian view that "the nation's health has deteriorated since day one of the NHS" (Letters, December 9).

Trusts are desperate for money because of the ageing population, the prohibitive cost of technology or drugs and the fact that the NHS is a labour-intensive organisation with huge labour costs. The latest Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development figures confirm that Britain spends less on healthcare (as a fraction of gross domestic product) than France or Germany.

The NHS has played a prominent role in improving the nation's health.

Infant mortality and morbidity rates are down, most of the once-dreaded killer diseases have more or less been eradicated and the lifespan of the British population has lengthened significantly.

The health of the nation could have been rosier had successive governments not ignored the links between social deprivations, poverty and ill-health or made a bolder attempt to tackle the "inverse care law". But one cannot blame the NHS for the actions or inactions of its political masters.

Roger Numas
Faculty of health, Brighton University

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