Education And Debate

Funding the NHS: Is the NHS sustainable?

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: (Published 25 January 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:296
  1. Anthony Harrison, fellow in policy analysisa,
  2. Jennifer Dixon, fellow in policy analysisa,
  3. Bill New, senior research officera,
  4. Ken Judge, directora
  1. a Policy Institute King's Fund London W1M 0AN


    The survival of the NHS lies largely in the hands of government, and this article suggests steps that it should take to deal with pressures on the NHS in terms of funding, managing efficiency, and demands. Changes to the system of funding may be unfeasible, but management could be improved by research to allow greater understanding of the local effects of national policies. Alternatively health authorities could be given more freedom to manage funds, although this would have to be accompanied by stiff sanctions for those who failed. Demand could be contained by strengthening policies to ensure that new technologies are cost effective. The government could try to reduce demands arising from increased expectations by encouraging informed public debate about priorities and influencing the availability of private health care. All these efforts should be guided by the values underpinning the NHS, which should be debated and decided collectively and confirmed in a new charter for NHS's 50th anniversary in 1998.

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