THE ‘sick man of Europe’ is a term originally coined in the mid-19th century, and was used to describe the Ottoman Empire during the Eastern Question. Since then, it has been ascribed to many other countries within Europe at one time or another. The thinking at the time was, that if the Ottoman Empire collapsed, then Europe would be in turmoil with countries competing to annex areas of fragmented lands resulting in a multitude of wars.
Another concept to mention before addressing the NHS is the Domino Theory. In 1954, referring to the Indochina political instability, US President Eisenhower said:
“Finally, you have broader considerations that might follow what you would call the ‘falling domino’ principle. You have a row of dominoes set up, you knock over the first one, and what will happen to the last one is the certainty that it will go over very quickly. So you could have a beginning of a disintegration that would have the most profound influences.”
In a nutshell, if one country fell to communism, then acting as dominoes, other neighbouring countries would also succumb to communism.
These two concepts are brought into sharp focus due to the current precarious nature of the NHS, which was highlighted in a joint letter signed by: the British Medical Association; the Royal College of Nursing; the Royal College of General Practitioners; the Alzheimer’s Society; the Anthony Nolan Trust; the MS Society; the Royal National Institute of Blind People; the Teenage Cancer Trust; the Family Doctor Association and the Faculty of Public Health, which said:
“The NHS and our social care services are at breaking point and things cannot go on like this. An NHS deficit of £30 billion is predicted by 2020 — a funding black hole that must be filled.”
Worryingly, 2020 is just four years away, and the UK economy has still not truly recovered from the credit crisis crash of 2007–08, with a stagnating if not slightly shrinking economy. An increase in the NHS budget is extremely unlikely.
If the NHS did collapse, the implications would be catastrophic and result in a collapse of the UK economy as it became a worthy competitor to the Greek financial crisis. Whole communities could be priced out of affordable healthcare caused by the dramatic increase in the UK cost of living. Many treatment options, such as monoclonal antibodies (mABs) would suddenly be too costly for patients to afford – some treatments already cost in excess of £1,000 per dose. Companies would respond to the loss in demand caused by a negative spiralling problem, by downsizing to ensure sustainability. All rather grim.
So, how is the Government hoping to prevent this potential future? I’ll answer that in my next article. Hint: think public health.
Aditya Aggarwal is a pharmacy student at the University of East Anglia, and founder of the Alternative Pharmacy Careers Conference
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