With just two days to go until the election, the parties are once again focussing on the Health Service - specifically, how much they'll pay for it. Labour are warning of an impending "cash crisis" in the NHS.
If it sounds familiar, it's because it, erm, is. Indeed it seems the NHS is constantly going through some sort of financial crisis. To wit:
2004: NHS trust in cash crisis
So has the NHS been getting a bad deal since 2004?
Not quite. Indeed, as my colleague Alex Wild noted in this excellent article, NHS funding nearly doubled in real terms between 2000 and 2010. Spending on the Health Service has been protected (indeed, there has been a slight increase in real terms) under the Coalition.
Thus we can draw one of two conclusions.
The NHS has never had enough money, and needs more.
Or - and I am aware that this is bordering on heresy - the current model of funding the Health Service is basically unsustainable in the long-term. The premise that the NHS needs more money may well be true, but with an ageing population, demands on the NHS will only grow. If we continue to increase funding of the Health Service at the same rate as between 2000 and 2010, Britain would spend almost all of its revenues on the NHS by around 2050 - giving us the choice of further borrowing (with the unpleasant consequences) or shutting schools.
Alarmist calls for political gain aside, Britain needs a proper debate about the NHS, how it is funded, and whether the service it is delivering is worthy of the budget. We are yet to have it.
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