The issue of funding the National Health Service has always been complicated and contentious.
From its very inception, the concept of the NHS was met with opposition, with complaints of government control, and excessive costs through taxation to provide healthcare free at the point of use.
In recent years, the issue has been rife with expressions like ‘underfunding’, ‘real terms’, ‘cash terms’ and ‘fit for purpose’.
The NHS became a focal point in this month’ budget, with covid relief measures and a 1% pay raise for NHS staff front and centre. To describe it as a political football would be an almighty understatement.
The numbers can be baffling, and so big they almost lose any real meaning to most of us. Millions and billions sound so similar and familiar we often don’t stop to think about what they mean.
Here’s a useful reminder of the scale of the difference: 1 million seconds is 12 days. 1 billion seconds is 31 years.
Scale and cost over 70 years
When the NHS was born on 5th July 1958, it had an annual budget of around £430 million. This was to care for a population of 49 million people, with an average life expectancy of 68 years.
By the time of its 70th Birthday in 2018, the NHS budget had reached £145 billion per year. By then, our population had risen to over 66 million, with our life expectancy now at 81 years.
While inflation and time blur direct comparisons, in 1948 the NHS made up 11% of the Government’s total spending. By 2018 it was 29.7%. That means that for every £10 the Government spends, almost £3 goes to the NHS.
Why does all of this matter?
Because while the NHS is free at the point of use, it is still paid for by us, albeit indirectly through our taxes.
And while NHS funding shouldn’t be about spending the least – investment in innovative treatment and prevention has saved countless lives – as a publicly owned and run institution, it should always strive for efficiency and value for money.
Here’s an area where an immediate and lasting saving can be made in the NHS and it actively benefits patients, staff and the environment too.
Every week, every hospital’s operating unit will throw away thousands of single-use, disposable surgical caps.
They cost about 15p each to make, and cannot be reused or recycled. The money is gone, and the cap goes to a landfill or is incinerated.
Our solution is simple – switch from single-use, disposable hats to reusable theatre caps.
Each hat, as well as being embroidered with a clinician’s name and role aiding communication, can be washed in line with developing infection control policies and will have a lifespan of around 3 years.
Small changes make big differences
Let’s look at the numbers for just one individual member of staff.
Providing that staff member with three washable, personalised hats through Warwick Med would cost the NHS just £24.00 – a saving of £15 over 12 months.
Then factor in the savings in years 2 and 3, with no outlay on disposable hats, and the cost of our reusable hats spent in year 1. That totals £93 savings for 1 staff member of 3 years (plus no environmental waste, and better patient communication.)
That may not sound like a lot against the millions and billions the NHS spends, but the key is that it is scalable.
A surgical unit may have 400 members of staff, so for one site that 3-year saving leaps from £93 to a total of £37,200.
Then consider there are more than 3,000 operating theatres in the UK performing over 10 millions procedures every year.
That £93 per person saving becomes £111.6million. Suddenly it makes a pretty big difference, doesn’t it?
Many of the hospitals we’re working with are also having their new reusable, customised caps bought for them by their charitable trusts. It’s a tangible benefits trusts can provide to their hospitals and one that provides many key benefits.
Our 3 benefits
The potential cost savings to the NHS are one of our three overriding aims at Warwick Med.
Along with reducing environmental impact and improving communication and patient safety, switching to reusable hats represents a significant saving allowing the NHS to run more efficiently, to deliver on its priorities and continue to innovate and save lives.
To find out more, and to get a personalised quote on how much your surgical unit could save, do please get in touch.