Education And Debate

Series: Funding the NHS. Is the NHS underfunded?

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: (Published 04 January 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:58
  1. Jennifer Dixon, fellow in policy analysisa,
  2. Anthony Harrison, fellow in policy analysisa,
  3. Bill New, senior research officera
  1. a Policy Institute, King's Fund, London W1M 0AN


    Since 1948 there has been constant debate over whether the NHS is underfunded. The debate heats up when crises in the NHS hit the headlines as occurred last year. Various groups, of all shades of the political spectrum, have argued that the NHS is unsustainable with current funding increases because of demands from demographic change, new technology, and increasing expectations. The government is almost a lone voice in arguing that the NHS is sustainable but may not be doing enough to ensure that it remains so in future. This article examines seven broad approaches used to support the case that the NHS is underfunded and concludes that all have flaws. There is no satisfactory answer to the question of whether the NHS is underfunded because the answer requires value judgments that will inevitably give rise to disagreements.

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