NHS faces ‘worst crisis in its history’, experts warn on service’s 75th anniversary

The stark warning was made in a letter sent to Rishi Sunak, Keir Starmer and Ed Davey by the Health Foundation, Nuffield Trust and The King’s Fund.

NHS workers strike

As the NHS turns 75 today, three major health and care research institutes have warned that the future of the service is at risk, amid political short termism and a lack of investment and reform.

The stark warning was made in a letter sent to Rishi Sunak, Keir Starmer and Ed Davey by the Health Foundation, Nuffield Trust and The King’s Fund. It stated: “75 years after its creation, the National Health Service is in critical condition. Pressures on services are extreme and public satisfaction is at its lowest since it first began to be tracked 40 years ago. Despite this, public support for the NHS as an institution is rock solid.”

It called on party leaders to develop a long-term plan to address the current underlying causes of the crisis in the NHS.

The think tank chief executives write: “As leaders of three leading independent health and care research institutes, we urge you to make the next election a decisive break point by ending years of short-termism in NHS policy-making. Recovering NHS services and reducing waiting times for treatment should be a key priority for any government. However, our work shows that promising unachievable, unrealistically fast improvements without a long-term plan to address the underlying causes of the current crisis is a strategy doomed to failure. The path back to a stronger health service is through long-term policies that support innovation, boost productivity and provide the resources, capacity and technology it needs over multiple years.”

The letter also criticises the lack of investment in the NHS, saying that as a result the health service has insufficient resources to do its job.

It goes on to add: “Life expectancy has stalled and compares poorly with other countries. A recent study showed that the UK had the second lowest life expectancy among 19 countries analysed, with only the United States faring worse. Inequalities in health are deep and growing – people in the most deprived areas of England can expect to spend almost two decades less living in good health than those in the wealthiest areas.”

The chief executives of Health Foundation, Nuffield Trust and The King’s Fund, called on the next Prime Minister to ‘commit to a multi-year, cross-government strategy over the course of the next parliament to improve the underlying social and economic conditions that shape the health of the nation – like people’s income, education, jobs, housing and food’.

Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward

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