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Last Updated: Saturday, 2 September 2006, 01:43 GMT 02:43 UK
Public 'expect too much from NHS'
NHS faces tough decisions on providing care
The public's expectations of the NHS far outstrips what the health service can deliver, research suggests.

A poll of 1,000 people found one in three believed the NHS should provide "all drugs and treatments, no matter what the cost".

Just one in four people believe the NHS should provide the "most effective and value for money treatment".

The survey was commissioned by the Institute for Public Policy Research.

The poll asked people what they thought was a reasonable wait for:
GP appointment for bad chest infection: 1.74 days (Gov target: 48 hours)
A&E for broken wrist: 2.5 hours (Gov target: 4 hours)
Outpatient appointment for a non serious back problem: 34 days (Gov target: 91 days)
Source: Institute for Public Policy Research

It also found that expectations of working class people are just as high as the middle classes.

There is very little difference between social classes in terms of how quickly they want to see their GP or a how long they are prepared to wait in A&E.

However, the most affluent middle classes are most likely to recognise that NHS treatments should represent value for money, while people on low incomes are the least likely to recognise any limits to spending.

Since Labour has come to power, the NHS budget has nearly tripled.

But after 2008, the high rates of growth in spending will come to an end.

In 2002, Derek Wanless's report to the Treasury recommended that NHS spending should continue to grow after 2008 at a rate between 4.4% and 5.5% in order to continue to 'catch up' with standards in other countries.

However, a document from the Treasury leaked earlier this year suggested that the rate of growth will be closer the historical average rate of growth for NHS spending - 3%.

'Cash-limited environment'

Richard Brooks, IPPR associate director, said: "We should all have high expectations of the NHS, but we need to recognise its limits as well.

There is no bottomless pit
Department of Health spokesman

"At the moment politicians of all parties collude in the fiction that everyone can have the latest treatments and the best possible care, regardless of the cost."

Jo Webber, deputy policy director at the NHS Confederation, which represents NHS Trusts, said "prioritising spending decisions is difficult in a cash-limited environment".

"The NHS Confederation has said for a long time that politicians, the public and the NHS urgently need to engage in an honest discussion about the reality of so-called 'post-code prescribing' and the difficult moral and ethical spending decisions that primary care trusts oversee."

A Department of Health spokesman said: "The record extra money invested into the NHS has delivered the faster ever access to care, but rising expectations and new drug treatments mean the pressures on the NHS are ever greater.

"However, despite the fact NHS spending will have almost trebled since 1997, reaching nearly 90bn by 2008, there is no bottomless pit.

"That's why, if we are to match rising expectations, finance new drugs and new treatments and tackle health inequalities, then the NHS must reform further."


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