Ask Not What Your NHS Can Do For You……….(1)

If you read this column last week you may recall that it was concerned with how to complain about poor service you may have received from the NHS. Now, in a major speech ahead of the budget the Chief Executive of NHS England has predicted that without more money for his organisation, waiting lists could increase by over a quarter to reach five million by 2021 – that’s around 10% of the population in England waiting for treatment.  Which probably means more people seeking help from Citizens Advice on how to complain about the NHS.

The sheer scale of the NHS makes it difficult to achieve consistency. The standard of care you can expect will probably vary according to where you live and what is wrong with you.  The two local hospital trusts are currently rated ‘outstanding’ (Frimley Park) and ‘good’ (Royal Surrey).  Frimley Park fell short of the A&E waiting times target while the Royal Surrey did not meet the target for cancer treatment.

What about the ever increasing costs though?  According to the NHS Confederation web site the projected cost of the NHS in England in 2017/18 was almost £124 billion.  As the season of goodwill approaches approaches you may not be thinking of ways to invest in the NHS which in the long term could really make a difference to these costs.

There is a well established trend across the country of a spike in the number of gym memberships taken out during the first month or two of a New Year.  Presumably this is as a result of people seeking to undo some of the effects of over indulgence in the Xmas period.  It would obviously be much more effective not to overindulge in the first place and it could save you money as well as making you feel better.  Combine this with taking more regular pre-Xmas exercise (it doesn’t matter how small the increase, the important word is “regular”) and you are in a win-win situation.

The impact on NHS expenditure of lifestyle changes will obviously take a long time to filter through to demand for NHS services.  However it is worth reminding ourselves of how much the unhealthy option costs us.  The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NIHCE) seeks to improve health and social care through evidence based guidance.  It has published estimates of how much premature death and preventable diseases costs the economy (including the NHS) each year.

  • Smoking (UK): £13.7 billion
  • Alcohol (England): £20 billion
  • Being obese or overweight as a result of poor diet or inactivity (UK): £7 billion
  • Physical inactivity: £6.5 billion
  • Stroke (England): £7 billion
  • Diabetes (UK): £8.4 billion

NIHCE believes that investment in public health campaigns can play an important part in reducing these figures.  So, as you prepare for Xmas, you might want to bear in mind NIHCE’s prediction that “based on current trends, around 40% of people living in Britain will be obese by 2025. In today’s money this will cost wider society an estimated £37.2 billion a year. Encouraging people to adopt a healthy diet and be more physically active could prevent this happening.”

What has this to do with Citizens Advice?  More than may first appear.  Next week’s column will examine ways in which Citizens Advice is working with the NHS and others to look at different ways of treating mental health and anxiety.

If you want advice on a healthy diet or how much extra exercise to take DON’T ask your local Citizens Advice.  If on the other hand you would like information and advice on who to ask about exercise and diet as well as on Benefits, Work, Consumer Issues, Relationships, Housing, Law and Rights, Education, Discrimination, Tax and Healthcare in general by:

  •  calling 0344 848 7969 to speak to an assessor or make an appointment to talk to an adviser face-to face. (calls to this service cost the same as calling 01 and 02 numbers included as part of a mobile allowance or a landline call package.
  • visiting to access our comprehensive range of information and advice,
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