The NHS will still struggle to cope on multiple fronts, despite Boris Johnson’s recently-announced £1.8bn funding boost for buildings, and his predecessor’s long-term funding plan to provide it with an extra £20.5 billion by 2023-24.
It comes to light after new research has been published by antibody supplier and medical research specialist Antibodies.com, which compares healthcare and pharmaceutical spend against annual salaries in several countries.
The analysis shows that this extra funding won’t be enough; the NHS needs a further £12.1 billion to maintain current provisions, and £21.3 billion to improve services. If this funding gap is met through taxes, the average UK household would need to pay an additional £340 a year through income tax, NICs and VAT to improve the NHS, or £150 just to maintain it.
The UK spends less than many developed countries on its healthcare system. At an average of £1,239 from an average salary of £35,335, it means that Brits are typically spending just 3.5% of their annual income on voluntary and out-of-pocket healthcare. With the additional £340 a year needed to modernise the NHS, this figure would rise to 4.4%.
This would still be less than in the United States, despite it being the only OECD country where government spending and compulsory health insurance isn’t the primary source of health financing.
The US spends 4.8% of each citizens’ $60,558 (£49,486) average annual salary on voluntary and out-of-pocket healthcare.
Comparitively, Switzerland spends the most. With an average annual salary equivalent to £50,325 and total voluntary/out-of-pocket health spending of £4,276, the Swiss are spending 8.5% of their income on healthcare per year, according to Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) data.
The research also reveals that an annual supply of six of the top-selling prescriptions costs an average of $3,378 or £2,760 more a year to buy in the US than in the UK, with Americans expected to pay out almost half of their annual salary on a year’s supply of Humira rheumatoid arthritis injections alone – even after monthly discounts.
Insulin, despite urgent calls for a price reduction, remains more expensive to purchase in the US than anywhere else, with diabetics facing annual costs of up to $10,404 (£8,510) for life-saving supplies of Novolog. This has predictably led to some Type 1 sufferers being forced to ration their rapid-acting insulin injections, causing blood sugar levels to reach fatal lows.
While the lack of uniform healthcare system in the US means that many end up paying extortionate fees for essential medication, fixed prescription charges in the UK mean that medicines are generally more affordable and accessible than in other industrialised countries.
Antibodies.com managing director Stewart Newlove said: “Although the NHS is an essential element of UK healthcare there is, without a doubt, some difficult financial decisions to be made when it comes to maintaining the current quality of care or improving provisions.
“This research reinforces the importance of financing the NHS by whatever means necessary, as there’s a clear connection between the amount of government or compulsory healthcare funding and better access to – and affordability of – essential medicines.
“However, rising healthcare costs need to be met with a matched national living wage, otherwise people will be forced to choose between seeking treatment for life-threatening conditions or putting food on the table.”
To see the results of Antibodies.com’s Cost of Living (and Staying Alive) analysis, visit https://www.antibodies.com/cost-of-saving-life/.