When the NHS turns 70 on 5th July, the government will announce more new money. It will not announce more money for local government. As ever, the totemic power of the NHS, the fact that it appears free (and doesn’t send you a bill unless you are an illegal immigrant, or assumed to be one) and is run by some of the most trusted people in Britain - doctors and nurses - means that 77% of us will go along with virtually anything to maintain it.
So far, so Britain. But in our latest polling, for NHS Providers, there are signs that the public is starting to appreciate the inter-connectedness of acute NHS and local services. Exhibit A is that anxiety about mental health has literally doubled in the last year in Britain, and is now second only to cancer in terms of public concern, well ahead of other challenges like diabetes. Exhibit B - when we ask the public where any extra money should be spent, after Accident and Emergency services, the top choices are now mental health and social care. These are prioritised well ahead of routine surgery or GP services. is the public starting to recognise the multiple factors behind ill health, homelessness and more? It just may be. Budgets of NHS mental health trusts in England rose by less than 2.5% in 2016-17, far less than the 6% boost received by acute trusts, the fifth year in a row that NHS bosses gave physical health services a larger cash increase, even though ministers have repeatedly stressed the need to give mental health services more money.
With the public now starting to notice the scale of the problem perhaps somehow, social care and mental health will get some more money as we all celebrate the NHS turning 70. The bad news? The public puts public health bottom of its list for extra funding. You can’t win them all.
This article was published in Municipal Journal in May 2018