The Importance of Healthcare
In the UK, when you think of healthcare, the first thought it usually the National Health Service (NHS) which develops and shares advanced, life-enhancing treatments and information for those who are unwell. Healthcare can include hospital care, outpatient visits to medical providers, nursing home care, and medication. In 2019, out of an £818 billion annual budget, the UK expects to spend about £151.9 billion a year on health care, principally the NHS.
The government spends vast sums of money for good healthcare so that the general population has access to combat illness and therefore not be a financial burden on the state. It also ensures the country has a reliable workforce to generate a thriving economy. The link between the economy and a strong workforce comes from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a forum of 34 governments and more than 70 non-member economies that promote economic growth, prosperity, and sustainable development. The OECD state a 10% increase in life expectancy creates an economic growth of around 0.3%-0.4% a year.
Health can deteriorate from accidents, sudden disease, and the effects of aging. This means that healthcare is needed not only to maintain current levels of health but also, where possible, to restore health following an illness or injury.
Individuals can take care of their own healthcare in many ways, so that they reduce the chances of need direct medical treatment from the NHS, whether through their general practitioner (GP) or through more specialised services. An individual’s health can be maintained or improved through changes in life style choices such as stopping smoking, eating more nutritious food and getting more exercise.
Medical treatments have had a positive impact on the health of many. This is through increasing the length of life and the quality of life of individuals. The improved quality of life brings more enjoyment of life and can reduce the risk of the same person needing repeated care in the future, which saves state resources, but also allows the individual to have a contented and fulfilling life with conditions under control if not cured.
The NHS and individual choices are not the only factors that determine health. Others include environmental factors, social factors, education, income, and genetics.
Healthcare has to deal with different trends of care over time. Today, fewer people are smoking and more people are controlling their cholesterol and blood pressure through behaviour changes as well as medication. However, obesity has more than doubled since the late 1970s. Obesity is the condition that is now putting the most strain on the NHS since it is associated with a higher risk of many diseases and health conditions, including hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, and some cancers. In addition, the number of people seeking medical help for the physical effects of alcohol addiction has also risen, particularly amongst women.
Healthcare also includes the research, development and use of new technologies. Knowledge about health and health care conditions continues to expand over time, generating an expanding inventory of new or improved products, techniques, and services. The first heart transplant in 1968 and the birth of the first “test-tube” baby in 1978 have led to treatments and procedures that would have been considered science fiction at the time the NHS was founded.
An aging population has also put pressure on healthcare. Older people may need support to live at home after discharge from hospital, but if there is no social care available, the individual has to remain in hospital, becoming what is termed a “bed-blocker”.
Trends in life expectancy
Life expectancy is only one of many outcome measures for health, but because it has been reliably and consistently measured over time, it offers a unique historical view of trends in health. Innovations in health and health care can explain the patterns in longevity. Changes in the first half of the 20th century came largely through progress in reducing malnutrition, improving sanitation, and containing infection through improved public health measures and the use of antibiotic agents such as penicillin. After about 20 years of gradual improvement in life expectancy, the rising longevity from 1970 reflects progress in treating life-threatening ailments prevalent among those over 50 years of age. The largest single contributor to increased longevity has been reduced mortality from heart disease and strokes due to advances in medical treatments and medications to manage high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and changes in individual behaviour to reduce risk factors such as smoking and high-fat diets.
Healthcare and the economy
Health can affect job productivity and in a wider sense the economy. Absence from work because of injury or illness leads to a loss of productivity. Poor health due to allergies, depression, musculoskeletal pain, and respiratory disorders can cause a lack of physical or mental energy needed to complete tasks. This can lead to increased workplace accidents, and the possible spread of illness to colleagues. Both have costs to the NHS, but also the wider economy.
Addressing challenges in the NHS
The trends in the healthcare system suggest that the rapid growth in healthcare costs will continue. Bureaucrats in the NHS face an increasing challenge as the budgetary burden of health care continues to grow as care quality improves under increasing demand. Yet governments aim to reduce health care costs.
This has led to innovation and choices that remove barriers to health in the general population, particularly by disadvantaged groups, such as homeless people who cannot register with a GP without an address. Encouraging healthy behaviours has proven to be a cost-effective alternative to increased spending on health care. Sharing of information about the risks and benefits of certain behaviours have been credited with being a very highly efficient way to improve health outcomes. To read the latest news about UK's health care system be sure to always read from trusted sources.
The NHS has helped improve the health and well-being of British citizens. As health care costs continue to rise, enormous opportunities exist to increase the value of health care by controlling costs, enhancing efficiency, quality and access.
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