The State of the NHS
On the 5th of July the NHS, arguably the UK’s most valued institution turned 70. Since its inception, the NHS has developed a rich history and is the envy of nations throughout the world who suffer the cost of a private healthcare system.
However, what was once a beacon of hope, and a shining example of an institution that provided assistance for all, is now struggling. Indeed, according to the NHS Confederation, the health expenditure per capita was £2,106 per capita in 2016, compared to £1,879 in 2012. The result is that the net deficit experienced by the NHS in 2016 was £1.851 billion, adding extreme pressures that they [the NHS] quite simply cannot afford to address.
However, that is not to say all is bad. Following a review of 10 countries including Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands – all countries we idolised in terms of health systems – the UK came first for ‘safe care’, ‘affordability’ and ‘equity’. Quite an impressive feat given that 1 million patients visit the NHS every 36 hours.
Regardless, it is seemingly evident that the NHS needs help, and following the failings of and political campaigns and ‘resolutions’, it seems that housing associations may indeed be their saving grace.
Two Prominent Issues
At present, the NHS is faced with two significant issues. On the one hand, you have a scenario where there is a backlog of available beds available within hospitals. These beds are priced at £275 per-day themselves, costing around £820 million per annum for treating patients that should have been discharged, but not well enough to live independently at home.
On the other, the second issue is increasing house prices, coupled with the stagnated wages of nurses, social carers and young doctors. This is particularly problematic for NHS workers in London, where the average house price exceeds £500,000, 18 times the salary of a nurse.
These issues, amongst other severe complications, hinder the NHS’s ability to operate effectively and fulfil their initiatives as stipulated in their 2018 Annual Report. In this report, the NHS notes a desire to ‘integrate care locally’ by putting centres and GPs are the ‘heart of the populations they serve.’ However, in order to commit to this mandate, they need to be accessible. Not only for the general population but for the doctors and nurses who serve within the practice – who quite simply can’t afford to live there.
The Proposed Solutions
As articulated in our blog on social housing, we stressed how housing associations are passionate about their social impact, as it is core to their mission statements. From our perspective, it is unsurprising that housing associations have offered to answer the call from the NHS and provide solutions for an institution that offers the ultimate social value: life.
Traditionally, in response to the identified financial pressures, the NHS and their affiliated trusts would sell off large bulks of land to private owners in order to acquire large, but one-off, sums of money. However, these – short-term – solutions were exactly that. They were a quick fix that did not provide the NHS with the salvation that it requires.
Alternatively, the proposal offered by many housing associations is essentially to build on NHS trust land, providing social or affordable housing for NHS staff, in addition to short-term housing for dischargeable patients, and/or the population.