Billions of pounds worth of extra investment in the NHS have been ‘largely wasted’, according to a social policy think tank.
Public spending on the NHS in England has increased under Labour from £44 billion in 2000-01 to £76.4 billion in 2005-06.
But Civitas says that while most government targets are being met, the NHS still has ‘serious shortcomings’ and mental health and stroke patients, for example, are suffering the consequences.
It says evidence has shown that some patients are kept in ambulances outside hospital until staff are sure they can be seen within the four-hour A&E target.
The Civitas report added that obesity rates have risen by a ‘staggering’ 500 per cent since 1980 and nearly 25 per cent of the adult population is clinically obese.
The think tank said that when it comes to death rates from strokes, the UK is the only country among several developed nations where there has been ‘virtually no improvement’ between 1999 and 2003.
During that period, deaths from strokes in the UK were around 100 per cent higher than in Australia, Canada, Japan, Sweden, Switzerland and the US.
The author of the report, James Gubb, said:’In the vast majority of areas, improvements in the NHS have in no way increased in proportion to the vast sums of money ploughed into its coffers.
‘Is the extra money working? To a limited extent one has to say yes, for there have been achievements, most notably the NHS’s historic inability to deal with long waits for elective care is apparently being reversed.
‘But is it working anything like one would hope? Definitely not. Service improvement has in too many areas resembled a country stroll, whereas expenditure has increased at a sprint.’
More doctors and nurses
The Department of Health (DoH) said the report failed to highlight many areas of increased productivity, including delayed discharges from hospital being reduced by over 60 per cent in the last four years. Efficiency savings overall also stand at £1.7 billion – £200 million ahead of the government’s target.
A DoH spokesman added: ‘Our investment has delivered new hospitals, walk-in centres and GP surgeries, more doctors and nurses and has helped the NHS achieve the lowest waiting lists on record. There have also been reductions in the ‘big killers’ like heart disease, and cancer patients are receiving the fastest-ever treatment.’