Headlines: May 18th, 2000

The much-publicised announcement that the Government is to pour more money into the NHS has been put into context in a new study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies. ‘Pressures in UK Healthcare: Challenges for the NHS’ suggests that despite a real and substantial increase in spending – rising challenges for the NHS mean it will be difficult to deliver the public’s expectation of improvements. The study reveals that the money is needed to keep pace with wage increases in the economy, the cost of new treatments and of caring for an ageing population. Indeed it finds that NHS spending will have to increase by some 30 per cent over the next fifty years to cope with the effects of an ageing population. The report also points out that despite the Government’s celebration over achieving its waiting list manifesto pledge yesterday (Wednesday), at the next election waiting lists will still be very high by historical standards. The new findings will offer insight to those taking part in the large scale public consultation on reforming the NHS now underway. The King’s Fund, which funded the report, said it proved the NHS could afford to look after the elderly. The report follows a call by Age Concern for an investigation into ageism in the NHS, citing a survey of GPs indicating concern that older people were in danger of being denied the treatment they needed so that money could be spent instead on younger age groups. Pressures in UK Healthcare will be available on the IFS website at www.ifs.org.uk/healthindex.shtml.