The BMJ Today: Let’s talk money

Some politicians would have us believe that the UK recession is soon to be a thing of the past, and that an economic recovery is well and truly under way, with all the glorious money that that promises for our public services. But two news stories by Gareth Iacobucci paint a very different picture.

The health policy think tank the King’s Fund predicts a financial crisis with “damaging consequences” for the NHS, unless significant investment reaches the health service quickly.

The NHS has been largely protected from the swingeing austerity measures meted out to other public services, but the report predicts that by 2021 the proportion of GDP spent on healthcare will fall to 6.1%—what it was in 2003. This compares with the current 7.7% of GDP that the government spends on the NHS (with an extra 1.5% coming from private sources), according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics, which show UK spending is the lowest of G7 countries and the same as Italy.

If the two stories make for depressing reading, most of the stakeholders at a meeting to discuss the King’s Fund report were even gloomier. Asked if the report was too optimistic Bill Shields, chief financial officer at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, replied “yes.”

But all is not lost on the money front. A study examining the efficacy of helmets for babies with skull flattening from lying in the same position for too long has found that they don’t work. Although not available on the NHS, some parents fork out £2000 for a rigid, custom made, close fitting helmet. Now they can save the money and put it away to fund their old age healthcare.

Zosia Kmietowicz is a freelance journalist.