17:21 GMT +315 December 2017
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    From Cutting Beds to Circumcision: MPs and Gov't Row Over UK Health Service

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    The National Health Service (NHS) is going through the biggest financial squeeze in its history. Since 2010, its budget has effectively been frozen, increasing by just enough to cover inflation. While this is generous compared to other areas of public spending, increasing demand for care means that services are under huge pressure.

    Prime Minister Theresa May, has claimed that her government will pump US$15 billion into the NHS by 2020. But the Health Committee members have claimed that this simply is not true.

    Five MPs, led by Dr. Sarah Wollaston, chair of the Commons Health Select Committee, have written to the Chancellor demanding the government stop claiming that they will be putting US$15 billion into the NHS annual budget. The MPs have demanded that the government admits the severity of its financial shortage. 

    "The continued use of the figure of £10 billion (US$15bn) for the additional health spending up to 2020-21 is not only incorrect but risks giving a false impression that the NHS is awash with cash," Dr. Wollaston and four fellow committee members tell the chancellor in a letter.

    Dr. Wollaston said that the real figure being given to the NHS from the government is closer to US$6 billion.

    "For example, you can only arrive at the £10 billion by shifting money from public health budgets and health education and training and also by changing the date with which you calculate real-term increases," Dr. Wollaston added. 

    "You can see how they've arrived at the figure but the real figure, we feel, should be quoted at £4.5 billion (US$5.5bn) which is considerably less."

    However Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, said in the House of Commons today (October 31) that the government would be pumping US$15 billion into the NHS and it would not be funds taken from public health budgets.

    October 31 news reports have shown that the financial squeeze in the NHS is impacting various areas of the health service.

    One NHS service in Liverpool, UK will have to stop prescribing Viagra. They will also have to stop carrying out male circumcision, which is done in the majority of cases for religious reasons. Faiths, such as the Jewish religion require that all males are circumcised and cutting these services would detrimentally impact the lives of millions of people who are circumcised as part of their faith.

    These are not the only medical operations and drugs that face being cut. Surgery such as breast reduction and hair removal therapy could also be stopped, in a bid to save $US11 million.  

    Dr. Sue Wells, chairman of Wirral CCG, which pays for NHS services in the borough, said that their aim is to ensure the services provided are effective and sustainable whilst continuing to encourage people to live a healthy lifestyle.  

    "It is important for us to make the best use of our resources and we are encouraging people to have their say," Dr. Wells said.

    NHS services in St. Helens recently unveiled a similar initiative to try and save money. They plan to cut fertility services for women under 38.

    All of this has raised the question as to whether the NHS is a financially viable healthcare system. 

    According to, healthcare organization the King's Fund, the NHS has responded well to the challenges but financial pressures are growing, with large numbers of hospitals now in deficit.

    Looking further ahead, pressure to spend more will grow as the costs of treatment rise, public expectations increase and the population continues to age.

    The NHS is facing various pressures, from reducing staffing, ageing population as well as closure of healthcare facilities. The ability for it to survive financially is becoming more difficult.

    38 Degrees, a crowed-funded campaign, investigated the problems that the NHS was facing and which areas would be impacted the most. They discovered that the government has planned several cost-cutting measures.

    The results revealed that the NHS planned to reduce the number of hospital beds and will decrease the costs associated with disposing of surplus land and real estate, which shows the severity of the issue that the NHS is currently facing.

    The cutting of services in certain NHS facilities is forming part of the sustainable development plan by the NHS, however according to some MPs and experts these initiatives are neither sustainable nor helpful.

    Where the NHS goes from here remains to be seen, with the government claiming a cash injection and MPs demanding the truth, it appears that the health care system is at a standstill once again. 

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    Tags:
    health care, hospitals, public health, funding, closure, health, money, National Health Service (NHS), Jeremy Hunt, Philip Hammond, Theresa May, Great Britain, United Kingdom
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