What can we afford for the NHS?

Authors: Pritchard, C.

Journal: Social Policy & Administration

Volume: 26

Pages: 40-54

ISSN: 0144-5596

DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9515.1992.tb00527.x


The annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is here used as a standard measure against which to compare expenditure on Health & Welfare and Defence budgets, between Conservative and Labour governments and the four largest EC countries 1973/4-1993/4.

An analysis of Mrs Thatcher's governments' expenditure shows that proportionately less GDP went to General Government Expenditure (GGE) than all the other European Community countries. Mrs Thatcher's first government maintained the unprecedented level of GDP devoted to Health reached in 1978/79, but successive administrations began to reduce, and, plan further reductions of GDP for the NHS. Relative decreases of GDP were also found in relation to expenditure on Social Security, Housing, and Personal Social Services and Defence.

The governments of France, Germany and Italy provided more of their GDP to health than Britain, whilst at the same time we spent more on Defence and Law & Order & Public Safety. This raises the question: what can we afford for the NHS?

A review of demographic changes shows that the British infant and elderly population, who are associated with demands for health, were proportionately more numerous than in France, Germany and Italy. This suggests the need for more UK health expenditure if Britain is to meet current and future needs.

Source: Manual