The fallacy of the false left’s line about “funding our NHS”

The parliamentary “left” as well as the “caring conservatives” are united in one big con about the NHS.

New Labour massively increased spending on the NHS as part of their huge increase in public spending (roughly speaking the government take of GDP went up from 38% to 48% under New Labour). When the Tories tried to roll-back on some of New Labour’s unsustainable excesses (known by the false left as “austerity”) they still protected the NHS.

The current NHS budget is £128 billion. In  2012 it was £112 billion. (Both figures expressed in real terms at 2017/18 prices). According to the LSE [2] under New Labour 1997-2010 the NHS budget doubled. (This appears to be in cash terms not real terms – but still a very significant increase).

The con is that all this money being poured into the NHS is somehow a social good. All politicians try to buy favour by showing that they regard the NHS as inviolable and that any amount of money poured into it is a good. As Illich pointed out however, how many hospitals (or nurses) a country has is a sign not of its health but of its sickness.

10% of the NHS budget is spent treating diabetes. [3] As the report [3] makes clear the majority of this money is spent treating complications arising from Type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is a lifestyle condition and entirely preventable. (Eat less, exercise more).

Smoking costs the NHS (in 2015) £2.6 billion per year – approx. 2% of its budget.

Alcohol costs the NHS 3.6% of its budget. [4]

Cancer costs the NHS £5 billion or about 4% of its budget. 40% of cancer illnesses are lifestyle related (on a very modest estimate by a cancer industry charity). [5]

Many other examples could be adduced. E.g heart disease.

If the overall figure for preventable illnesses could be shown to be 50% then we can see that pouring money into the NHS is (quite literally) sustaining and underwriting peoples’ ill-health. Guaranteeing that people who smoke and overeat will have the resulting health problems treated is not doing them a kindness.

The NHS line is a con. Politicians use it as a device to make them appear caring. But sustaining ill-health is not caring.

Notes

1. https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/projects/nhs-in-a-nutshell/nhs-budget

2. http://www.lse.ac.uk/website-archive/newsAndMedia/newsArchives/2011/03/NHSreport.aspx

3. https://www.nhs.uk/news/diabetes/diabetes-cases-and-costs-predicted-to-rise/

4. https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2016/jan/22/alcohol-and-the-nhs-five-key-questions

5. https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/causes-of-cancer/can-cancer-be-prevented

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Author: justinwyllie

EFL Teacher and Photographer