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Eppur there has been record spending on the NHS

Paul Waugh, the Chief Political Commentator for the Independent‘s spinoff the i Newspaper, tweets, “On @BBCr4today, Unison’s @cmcanea did an excellent job of explaining why Govt claims of “record” funding for the NHS are misleading. (ie health inflation higher than normal inflation + demographic pressure)

Here’s a key graph to remember whenever you hear ‘record’ spending”

His tweet then shows a graph of the average annual increase in government spending on health in 2019/20 prices for various governments plotted against time. Note that inflation is already accounted for by having all the spending figures at 2019/2020 prices. If spending on the NHS had merely kept pace with inflation, the bars would all have a height of zero. As it is, all of the bars are positive. Therefore not only has there been record funding for the NHS under this government, there has been record funding for the NHS under every government.

Whether one thinks this a good thing or a bad thing, it is a fact.

17 comments to Eppur there has been record spending on the NHS

  • Peter MacFarlane

    This is normal propaganda. It relies on two truths: 1 – “Cuts” means the budget increases but not by as much as your (totally unreasonable) demand. 2 – People don’t understand the difference between a number and its derivative – that is to say, a value and its rate of increase.

  • Alan Peakall

    I recall the apocryphal (but highly plausible) 1970s headline:

    Government Acts to Curb Prices; Rate of Increase of Inflation Slashed.

  • John

    Assuming the census figures are accurate it seems likely that average spend per (officially recorded) person will also have increased every single year. Yet somehow there seem to be more people requiring treatment.

    It’s a puzzler.

  • Paul Marks

    It is Mr Waugh, the “Independent”, and the BBC who are being “misleading”. As well as the union – who one would expect to lie.

    NHS spending has exploded under the current government, and under every previous government since 1979.

    “This takes me back” as old men like me say, because I remember the same lies back in 1979 – talk of “cuts” (by the BBC and so on) when NHS spending was increasing. I have know that the BBC, and the rest of the left “mainstream” media, are liars for 43 years – and they are still lying.

    How can the public come to any rational conclusion, about anything, when the “mainstream” media constantly lie to them?

    Not just about government health spending, but about Covid (lockdowns presented as a good idea, Early Treatment smeared, toxic injections pushed), historic temperature figures (American government fantasy figures presented as fact), elections (again rigged American elections presented as straight), race relations (in both the United Kingdom and the United States the “narrative” is that white people are attacking black people – in reality it is more common for it to be the other way round), and-everything-else.

    The public are, in both the United Kingdom and the United States, fed a constant diet of lies by the “mainstream” media – and “conservative” politicians do nothing about it. They even go crawling to the “mainstream” media.

    And, of course, the Corporate media (such as Sky News in the United Kingdom – owned by Comcast, which owns pathologically dishonest NBC in the United States) is no more honest than government media such as the BBC.

    I remind people that the “Independent” is not government owned and neither is the “Guardian” newspaper – they lie constantly, but they are treated as legitimate news sources – just as the New York Times and the Washington Post (which also lie – about just about everything) are treated as legitimate news sources in the United States. So it is not just the government owned media that is dishonest.

  • This is classic “how to lie with statistics”. If you look above the graph (“average annual increase”) or look left of it (… 2% … 4% …), you realise this is rates – realise this is accusing Margaret Thatcher of not restraining the rate of growth of NHS much, let alone ever cutting it. But of course, Waugh’s hope is the punter will look at the graph and see the bar drop even though the graph itself demonstrates there is indeed record spending on the NHS. As it has always risen and never fallen, every year is a record compared to the last.

    A more pertinent point is the one that PM Gordon Brown made to a Scottish Labour councillor who asked what Labour had achieved soon after he lost office. Gordon replied that Labour had “almost doubled expenditure on the NHS”. Sadly, it’s output did not rise proportionately – nearer the reverse, indeed – but that was indeed a huge albatross they fastened round the necks of their successors.

    People who worked for the NHS at the time witnessed how Labour threw money at the NHS to justify their claim the wicked Tories had starved it – how they paid more (literally, in terms of wages) to get no more. Don’t get me wrong: my informants liked the astonishing pay rises, but as principled professionals with the NHS’ best interests at heart, they could not help being aware that these pleasantries were at the expense of funding real improvements – and the blind throwing of money was not good at targeting those real improvements.

    (And, as I’ve mentioned before, the left hand of Labour’s urge to regulate easily defeated the right hand of Labour’s urge to fund when it came to making real improvements.)

  • Paul Marks

    Yes Niall – they are trying to deceive, this is what the left always do. The last time the NHS was in any sense “cut” was in the late 1970s after the de facto bankruptcy (the calling in of the IMF) of the United Kingdom.

    Nor is it a recent thing for the Collectivists to be liars – liars on-principle because they believe that Collectivism is more important than truth. It goes all the way back to Plato – he of the “noble lie”.

    As for the “mainstream” media – the New York Times and the Manchester Guardian were covering up the murder of millions of people in the Marxist Soviet Union as far back as the 1930s.

    Think about that everyone – the fake “liberal” (they are not liberal at all – they are the opposite of liberals, they are Collectivists) media was prepared to actively cover up the murder of millions of human beings.

    So do not be astonished at anything else they do.

    When “liberalism” was turned on its head, when “liberals” decided that ever bigger government was “progress” they broke with truth and embraced lies. And they did it as a matter of principle – evil became their good.

  • Douglas2

    I don’t have the figures or sources to hand right now, but I recall looking up NHS funding and seeing it increase above the rate of inflation for every single year going way back, with the sole exception of one year (during the 2008 global recession).

    So this graph misleads in another way, by giving an average per-government across years. There was a year when NHS funding was less than the previous year when inflation is accounted for.

  • Stonyground

    Anecdote time. My local surgery is a pretty good one judging by the horror stories that I hear from other parts of the country. I still expect to spend thirty or forty minutes listening to awful wallpaper music and recorded messages to get an appointment to see a doctor but I do get to see one that day. My family gave up trying to find an NHS dentist years ago and went private. I have a problem with a crown coming loose so I ring my dentist. The phone is answered within minutes and I have an appointment in two hours time. I was asked if I had toothache, I’m guessing that if I had I would have been seen sooner. I often compare the excellent service that I get from the vet to the rather mediocre service the NHS provides. I can add the service that I get from my dentist to that.

  • Yet Another Chris

    I’m not sure where I read it, but hasn’t NHS spending gone up by forty per cent in real terms in the last twenty years? With twenty per cent more doctors and nurses? Yet every winter we have stories about the envy of the world being overwhelmed. So mismanagement. Or ageing population. Or a far greater population than census figures suggest. Or a combination, or what?

  • I don’t have the figures or sources to hand right now, but I recall looking up NHS funding and seeing it increase above the rate of inflation for every single year going way back, with the sole exception of one year, during the 2008 global recession. (Douglas2, December 19, 2022 at 4:38 pm)

    Yes, I was part-way through yet another paragraph in my comment above about how the graph’s flat lines for whole periods of ‘Labour government’ concealed some variety – but then I decided that the mantra ‘less is more’ applied. The temptation to add yet one more damning point to a long enough comment must often be resisted – not least by me. 🙂

    The last time the NHS was in any sense “cut” was in the late 1970s after the de facto bankruptcy (the calling in of the IMF) of the United Kingdom.

    Amazingly, a BBC radio 4 programme of the early Thatcher government (which I have heard – it was in the satirical series ‘Week Ending’) actually referred to it. They had a sketch of a ward matron talking about all the (comically exaggerated) government NHS cuts and absurd consequences but the final twist reveal was the matron’s response to the shocked announcer’s damning Tory callousness – “Oh, no, these are still the Labour cuts – that Mr Callahan! We’re dreading when the Tory ones hit next year.”

  • Kirk

    The real question to be asked, however, is this: Of all that money, how much was actually spent on health care, as opposed to administrative overhead and social engineering…?

    I’d lay you long odds that much of it went to things other than treatment and surgery.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    I suspect earlier Waughs such as the writer Auberon Waugh wouldn’t have been impressed by that tweet.

  • Fraser Orr

    I think Niall’s point is important. What you guys want is the production of better and more medicine not the spending of more money. And the problem with the NHS like the problem with most organizations – most notably here in the USA the insane costs of college – is that even when you spend money you spend it on administrators who bother and frustrate the medical staff rather than on producing more medical product. Just as an FYI, when my first kid went to elementary school 85% of the staff were teachers, today, as my last kid is in that same school, 50% of the staff are teachers.

    As has been said here the NHS is Britain’s state religion, however, the nurses’ demand of 19% pay raise is surely enough to make even the British worshipers at that altar take a moment to go: “19%? Really?”

  • bobby b

    Niall Kilmartin
    December 19, 2022 at 10:33 pm

    “The temptation to add yet one more damning point to a long enough comment must often be resisted – not least by me. 🙂”

    Is the internet about to run out of text characters?

    People can choose to read or not read as they see fit, but if you choose not to put it out there, it’s just not out there. I never understand the push to cut down on commenting just for the sake of not commenting “too much.” I’d rather read what you have to say. There’s an upside to loquaciousness (for readers); the downside might exist, but it’s trivial.

  • Paul Marks

    According to the Economist magazine there are not too many managers, Diversity Officers, and so on, in the National Health Service.

    But then the Economist magazine also thinks that Corporatism is free market capitalism.

  • Fred the Fourth

    A few years ago I did an analysis of California’s budget, going back 30 years of so.

    No matter how I sliced it:
    – Then-current dollars spent by gov vs dollars earned by residents
    – Budget as percent of state GDP (this number is, of course, not at all independent of the rest of the country or world)
    – Inflation adjusted dollars per capita
    – Inflation adjusted dollars in education per enrolled public school student

    Spending grew at roughly 5% CAGR.

    The only thing I could find which correlated with spending was (drumroll!!) state government employment. What a effing surprise that was!!

  • Bobby b (December 20, 2022 at 8:01 pm), I could spend my life commenting on Samizdata and never write a post, let alone progress my day job, if I did not exercise restraint in my commenting.