Every day it seems that there are headlines detailing mind-bogglingly large sums of government spending in various areas. And very rarely are these funds being directed towards the UK’s National Health Services (NHS). This raises the question: are these funds really being correctly allocated?

An institution in decline

For the last 75 years, the NHS has been free. However, ongoing delays and strikes have led to some of the longest waiting times patients have ever faced. According to the British Medical Association (BMA), as of October 2022, there are 7.21 million patients whose appointments have been delayed by up to 18 months. Alongside this, the NHS is currently overburdened with staff burnout because of pay cuts, or a lack of pay rises to keep up with skyrocketing inflation. Former health secretary Sajid Javid has suggested the solution to this is paying for GP and A&E visits, akin to other paid systems across the globe, to stabilize the lengthy waiting times in the UK. Similarly, during Rishi Sunak’s campaigns, he proposed patients should pay a £10 ($12.38) fine per missed GP appointment but scrapped this after receiving backlash from health leaders.

A history of neglect

The NHS has historically struggled to stay up-to-date with evolving needs, following staff and resource shortages, funding pressures, outdated systems of practice, a patient-focused model, and a lack of national standards. Ultimately, the of the biggest obstacles to the success of the NHS is its underfunding. From the turn of the millennium, between the years 2000 and 2010, the NHS successfully met its waiting time targets and was able to reduce waiting times across the service. And it may be possible (or an overly optimistic assumption) that we can get back to that by implementing certain long-term measures. Some of the suggested fixes include those with access to private healthcare capitalize on their medical insurance policies and plans to create more availability for patients with reduced access to healthcare. Another suggested fix involves the government reallocating funding so a larger sum is injected into the NHS, meaning the number of available hospital beds can increase and the NHS can hire more staff on rotation to avoid burnout.