In a week when our struggling National Health Service was never out of the headlines I was amazed to discover where some of its funding goes.
The Service, of course, costs billions to run - £116.4 billion in 2015-16 - and, since national insurance contributions from which the cost of the service comes, haven’t risen anything like the percentages the service has increased by since it began in 1948, one has to ask who funds the shortfall?
I have to ask because what it costs in 1948 is approximately £15bn in today’s money. The difference from then to now is staggering and with the government’s main source of revenue coming from taxes and national insurance contributions I can see why subsequent elected governments have been reluctant to hike up NIS contributions to a more realistic level since, as I understand it, it is mostly from the latter that the NHS is funded. The sums don’t add up.
The NHS isn’t a privately run organisation which is why I suspect the civil servants who run it do so with that strange mentality they apply to most other services, including the salaries of the rest of the public sector, money appears to be no object. I suggest this because I read this week that the NHS spends £12 million a year prescribing anti-dandruff shampoos and indigestion remedies.
The figure also includes £5.5 million a year to cure mouth ulcers. Now I know the latter is exceedingly uncomfortable, if not disruptive to one’s life – I’ve just recovered from the problem caused I’m certain by the same virus that laid me and Himself low for a week. In years past my mother would have treated same by handing us a glass of water with salt in it, standing over us until we had swilled correctly. She had been a nurse in her time and this was the normal way to treat such a complaint. There wasn’t a pill for every ill in those days.
Nowadays a mouth ulcer has a patient cluttering up a GP’s list. It must be so much easier for him to simply write a prescription.
The idea that the NHS should pay for anti-dandruff preparations too is astonishing given the many easily affordable preparations there are for it on supermarket shelves.
Where much greater sums are being paid out is in the area of fertility treatment.
Today the NHS can help a couple struggling to have a child by paying for infertility treatment, though the service is limited to two or three sessions. Now we hear that ‘women transitioning to men must be offered egg storage on the NHS’ because, according to the British Fertility Society, they have the right to become parents too. Already the NHS pays for gender reassignment surgery with some clinics in London handling 2,000 referrals a year.
From a Fertility 2018 meeting in Liverpool recently the Daily Telegraph reported that “healthcare experts called for equity in the NHS to allow ‘transfolk’ to freeze eggs, embryos or ovarian tissue. A leading clinician reported to the meeting that the number of people coming forward with gender dysphoria has increased rapidly, but the provision of NHS funding for fertility preservation for this group is yet to catch up’’. Can the NHS afford this new treatment? More to the point, what will be the response of the public already being denied regular procedures because of cuts?
A widely held belief is that the NHS is crippled by the needs of the elderly. The elderly, on the other hand, can point to the drunks and drug addicts who litter our A&E units nightly, most of them getting preferential treatment just to get them out of the way. A plan has been talked about whereby drunks would be allowed to sober up in special units in hospital grounds with professional nurses in charge. How much extra will these put on the NHS bill?
Those affected by social drugs need hospital care because the risks are greater. These people will be adding to the costs of the NHS in future if they maintain their drug addled lifestyle. It may even be the very same people blaming the cost to the state of the elderly.
Another blow to a State worried about its increasing NHS bill will be the news that pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has announced it is halting research efforts into finding new treatments for Alzheimer’s after years of failed drug trials.
The problems simply mount up.