NHS faces ‘ticking time bomb’.
Obesity, smoking and binge drinking are pushing the health service to ‘breaking point.
Doctors are warning Theresa May the NHS faces a “ticking time bomb” unless the Government drastically increases funding for public health.
A report from the the British Medical Association (BMA) claims the health service is at “breaking point” due to a combination of unhealthy lifestyles and deep cuts to health budgets.
The doctors’ union said swingeing cuts of £400m by 2020-21 and failure to curb persistently high levels of obesity, smoking and binge drinking will plunge the NHS further into the red, while condemning patients to suffer from preventable diseases.
“In England, successive governments have failed to deliver a long-term plan to improve public health, and too often evidence-based public health measures have been kicked into the long grass,” said Dr Mark Porter, council chair of the BMA.
The intervention comes as political parties release pledges about the future of the health service – an issue close to voters’ hearts in an election otherwise dominated by Brexit.
Labour has promised to ban TV adverts for junk food and products high in fat, salt or sugar before 9pm to tackle childhood obesity, as well as offering NHS staff a pay rise and putting a halt to planned hospital closures.
The Conservatives have already said they will recruit 10,000 more mental health staff by 2020, and are expected to set out further plans when they publish their manifesto next week
A childhood obesity plan announced by the Government last August set out a programme to reduce children’s sugar intake and increase physical activity in the next decade – including a tax hike on sugary soft drinks, which comes into force in April.
But the BMA attacked the strategy as “watered-down”, saying politicians had been “too slow and weak” to prevent the threats facing Britain’s health.
He added: “Whoever is in government next, must make tackling the crisis in public health a priority. With the NHS at breaking point, and demand on services only set to rise we are facing a ticking time bomb.”
The BMA said the issue was exacerbated by a lack of leadership on improving the nation’s health, risking the future sustainability of the NHS, and public health budgets facing a cut of £400m from 2015/16 to 2020/21.
This comes as obesity rates remain stubbornly high across the UK, nearly one in six adults still smoke, and 7.8 million adults binge drink.
“Politicians have been too slow and weak in tackling these challenges – from a watered-down childhood obesity strategy and failure to publish a new tobacco control plan, to the lack of recognition of the need for a new alcohol strategy,” the BMA states.