NHS at 60 still the fairest and most cost-effective health system in the world

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Commenting on the NHS' sixtieth anniversary on 5 July 2008, The King's Fund's Chief Executive Niall Dickson said:

'Sixty years on from its inauguration our NHS, funded through general taxation, is still the fairest and most cost-effective health system in the world. It removes fear and creates what is in effect a huge compulsory insurance scheme that is valued by patients, staff and the public.

'The last six decades have seen remarkable advancements in medical technology, new drugs and faster treatments – anyone around at the inception of the NHS would no doubt be hugely impressed by the transplant surgery and chemotherapy that patients now routinely benefit from, or how the NHS has combated AIDS or improved the way we care for people with mental illness. In that time the NHS has changed from a £400 million business (roughly £11.5 billion in today’s prices) compared with the £107 billion it costs today.

'But this is not to say that the NHS should be immune from change – major challenges lie ahead that will largely determine whether the NHS, funded through general taxation and available to all free at the point of need, will survive. Coping and caring for an ageing population, many of whom will have dementia; combating the rising tide of obesity and other lifestyle conditions; and keeping pace with new drugs and medical technologies will make fresh demands on our finite resources. The other major challenge is to make the NHS significantly more responsive to patients.

'It will be crucial to reform the NHS from a state-run monopoly business to a commissioner of comprehensive health care, free at the point of need, where NHS care can be provided by all sorts of public, private or voluntary sector organisations. Doing this and addressing public concern that the NHS remains fair and equal will go a long way to safeguarding its future for another 60 years.'

Notes to editors

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