As a General Election looms, the UK’s main political parties face a serious dilemma over NHS spending. The NHS budget has tripled in real-terms over the past 30 years, and 42p in every £1 spent on public services in England goes to the health service. The scale of the health budget, combined with the dire fiscal and economic outlook, means that even historically averages increases of 3% to 4% will require finding vast sums from taxation, borrowing, or other public services already cut to the bone.  

Yet in the aftermath of the pandemic, amidst widespread strike action and rising waiting times, public satisfaction with the health service has plummeted as millions go without timely care. Regular overspends show that the health service is operating at or beyond the limit of its budget – and 83% of the public believe that the NHS faces a major or severe funding problem. 

At this event looked up from the daily and monthly crises that face the NHS to take a long-term view of how Britain can meet the ever-growing bill for health care. The sheer difficulty of increasing the health service budget means that finance has often become a subject to avoid, as government and opposition alike understandably look for ways to stretch the existing budget further. Significant funding increases are an idea largely absent from the political debate. 

But can productivity remove the need for more money – or will we have to choose between worse care, less care, or higher taxes? And if we do make such radical improvements in financial control, how radical and difficult are the changes that would be required? 

Speakers from the IFS, the Nuffield Trust and the world of politics and journalism briefly set out honest and blunt appraisals of the choices the country faces, before debating and discussing as a panel with our audience.

This event is funded by