Challenges Facing The NHS
Many consider the NHS to be one of our society’s most precious resources. But it has historically been under a lot of pressure, and that pressure is increasing for several reasons. These include economic, social and political pressures — and they are all interlinked.
The page answers the following questions:
- What are the main challenges facing the NHS?
- How are the challenges facing the NHS being met?
- What is the new government’s approach to the NHS?
What Are The Main Challenges Facing The NHS?
Some of the key challenges currently facing the NHS are:
- An ageing population
- A growing population
- Evolving healthcare needs, such as the increase in cases of obesity and diabetes, or antibiotic resistance.
- Medical advancements save lots of lives every year, but push up costs considerably. It is estimated that progress in medical technology costs the NHS at least an extra £10bn a year.
- Closure of local services due to centralization drives
- An increase in reliance on privatized services
The Nuffield Trust (from this report) estimates that the ageing and growing population alone could mean we need another 17,000 hospital beds by 2022 — and that’s just hospital beds. The number of doctors, nurses, other staff and equipment all have to meet demand.
How Are The Challenges Facing The NHS Being Met?
Economically, the NHS has always been a battleground, as governments fight to secure the future of the NHS whilst being cost-efficient.
One of the solutions is to move patient care out of hospitals and into clinics in GP surgeries and in the community. But this takes a toll on hospital incomes, driving more and more of them into debt. Some hospitals trusts have even been put into administration over the last few years.
Centralisation of services is one way the government tried to redress funding issues. But this means closing some local services like A&E and maternity units.
What Is The New Government’s Approach To The Challenges Facing the NHS?
The current Conservative government has pledged an extra £8bn in funding by 2020, which is the minimum amount NHS England boss Simon Stevens says it will need in order to survive. They will also:
- Save money by cutting more of the social care budget.
- But slightly increase funding for mental health.
- Attempt to decrease waiting times by guaranteeing access to a GP seven days a week, and appointments within 48 hours for the over-75s.
- However, they will not reduce the cap on the amount of income NHS Trusts can generate from private patients, which could have a detrimental affect on waiting times and pressure on services.
Medical health professionals probably know the NHS better than anyone, so their views are important in deciding how to address the challenges it faces. In the next section we will look at what it’s like to work for the NHS in today’s world.