King’s Fund report comes as health secretary announces South London NHS Trust to be dissolved
The UK government could end up dedicating half of its total spending to health and social care by 2060, according to a report from influential healthcare think-tank the King's Fund.
This is in line with figures that show the UK is spending more than twice as much of its national income (9 per cent) on health and social care than it did 50 years ago.
The report, which was led by the King's Fund's chief economist John Appleby, claims that if this trend continues, the UK could end up spending 20 per cent of its total national income on healthcare.
Taking into account economic growth and current levels of taxation and expenditure, this would mean 50 per cent of total public spending is used within health and social care.
There are several trends fuelling this need for extra healthcare spending, said the King's Fund, including the ageing population - an issue deemed pressing enough for the European Commission to launch an action plan to deal with related aspects, including prescription adherence and the increase in chronic conditions.
Other key trends highlighted by the King's Fund included increases in wealth and medical advances, which are expected to increase pressure on the NHS to spend more on health and social care in the future.
Appleby said he hoped the report would encourage an “informed debate” about the future of healthcare in the UK.
He said: “While there is nothing inevitable about spending on health and social care continuing to increase in line with historic trends, the pressure to spend more is likely to see it consuming an ever-larger proportion of national income.
“It is time to think much more long term about how much we should spend, the benefits of this spending and how it should be paid for.”
This was a view backed by the NHS Confederation's chief executive Mike Farrar.
He said: "We urgently need an all-party debate about how we can establish a sustainable health and social care system, with radical solutions very much allowed."
The report was published the same day that UK health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said that the struggling South London NHS Trust will be dissolved.
The Trust, which has debts of £150m, will see its three hospitals taken over by neighbouring trusts, while all vacant or “poorly utilised” premises will be vacated, and sold where possible.
In addition, Hunt also announced that the A&E department at the neighbouring Lewisham Hospital will not face closure, despite fears it would be shut to further cut costs.
Instead, it will have its services limited, retaining the ability to admit patients with less serious conditions and continuing to have 24/7 senior medical emergency cover.