The NHS is ‘nowhere near’ crisis point, the boss of a renowned market research firm used by the Government has controversially claimed.
Ben Page, chief executive of Ipsos MORI, yesterday said it will take a ‘few more bad winters’ before the struggling health service can truly be in ‘crisis’.
His comments come days after Theresa May promised a £20 billion injection into the NHS by 2023, following the ‘worst ever winter’.
In a major speech in London, the Prime Minister announced the five-year budget settlement to mark next month’s 70th anniversary of the health service.
Ben Page, chief executive of Ipsos MORI, yesterday said it will take a ‘few more bad winters’ before the struggling health service can truly be in ‘crisis’
Writing in a first-person article for the British Medical Journal, Mr Page accepted the cash-strapped NHS ‘does need more money’.
But he argued the health service will ‘never have enough’ money unless the system and society both changes their attitude and behaviour.
Mr Page wrote: ‘Some 49 per cent of British adults currently describe the state of the NHS as one of the key issues facing the country.
‘But to give you an idea of what “crisis” really looks like, on a comparable basis concern about unemployment was at 87 per cent in the winter of 1982.
‘It is only when more than six in 10 people regularly mention an issue that we can safely say it is truly “in crisis”.
‘We are some way from a tipping point in perception about the NHS, but a few bad winters could bring one.
His comments come days after Theresa May promised a £20 billion injection into the NHS by 2023, following the ‘worst ever winter’
JUST HOW STRETCHED IS THE NHS?
Waiting times at over-stretched A&E units are at their worst level since records began, according to official figures revealed April 2018.
Experts said the NHS was in the grip of an ‘eternal winter’ and many hospitals are still struggling to cope with the unprecedented pressure.
Health and Social Care Secretary Jeremy Hunt was forced to admit it was the ‘worst winter ever’ amid a severe outbreak of flu and cold weather.
Chiefs cancelled thousands of operations in a controversial move to ease pressure. And experts have suggested this may be the only option to stop a crisis next year.
The latest monthly data from NHS England also shows that waiting times for routine operations, such as knee and hip replacements, are at their highest since 2004.
And violent assaults on staff have risen by 10 per cent in a year – partly driven by frustration with waiting times.
In the piece, titled ‘The NHS is nowhere near crisis point yet’, he said society needs to shift from seeing illness as inevitable to something ‘we take responsibility’ for.
Mr Page added: ‘Until society itself has changed its attitude and behaviour and the NHS has changed alongside it, it will never have “enough” money.’
Frustrated medics repeatedly demanded extra funding during the winter, as the NHS was bursting at its seams because of the unprecedented pressure.
Health and Social Care Secretary Jeremy Hunt described the crisis as the ‘worst ever’ winter as A&E waits and routine operation delays rose to record highs.
In a desperate attempt to ease the pressure, Mr Hunt controversially announced delays to tens of thousands of operations in January.
Mrs May’s announcement earlier this week to devote an extra £20 billion, or £394 million a week, into the NHS was welcomed by many medics.
The health service’s budget will increase from the current £114 billion a year to the post-inflation equivalent of £136 billion a year by 2023.
She insisted the settlement will be funded in part by a ‘Brexit dividend’ generated by the UK no longer having to pay EU membership fees.
However, the idea that leaving the EU will free up any resources has been branded ‘tosh’ by Tory Remainer MPs.
Mrs May also conceded that the country will need to contribute ‘a bit more’ to cover the full cost of the extra funding.
Hundreds of thousands more families could be forced to pay a higher 40p rate of income tax under the planned NHS cash boost.
Mrs May said the extra cash must come hand in hand with a new drive to cut excess spending on everything, from agency nurses to rubber gloves.
Chancellor Philip Hammond issued a stark warning to ministers that the NHS funding splurge means there is no extra cash for defence and policing.