Patient care is not sport but should it be funded like it is? #WILTW

This is the 118th #WILTW

A last minute victory in a sporting event is always exciting to watch. Whether it be a perfect two and a half back-somersaults with two and a half twists in the final round of the diving or a dive across the line to win the 400m it’s brilliant to see years of hard graft coming to fruition.

I always experience a pang of guilt during the Olympics having chosen medicine and a social life at University rather than medicine and steeplechasing. I have huge respect for the sacrifices made by sports men and women in dedicating their lives to, what in some cases, is less than 10s of action. I have also watched with interest the increasing public awareness of marginal gains. Concentrating on ensuring every part of your performance is as good as it can be is something I discussed in reviewing Leicester City’s football success. 

Marginal gains are not a new concept in healthcare so it is easy to see why people wonder if we can transform the NHS in the same way British sport has radically altered since the nadir of Atlanta 1996. Huge financial investment, £5 million (Atlanta) to £350 million (Rio), has resulted in a 2000% increase in gold medals compared to those 20 years ago. Trying to make a comparison with healthcare is patently silly and also quite difficult as direct funding figures are hard to come by (although I was surprised to find between 1999/00 and 2009/10, NHS real-terms expenditure rose by 92%). However it does seem odd that while we are happy to expand funding to reward olympic sporting success we are not happy to expand NHS funding despite relatively high performance compared to other international comparators. The figure below shows flat expenditure growth in the last 5 years.


NHS funding and expenditure via House of Commons Library
NHS funding and expenditure via House of Commons Library

One thing that doesn’t happen in healthcare compared to sport is penalisation of failing to succeed. This is not something that would benefit patients or staff. You do wonder though if the NHS is such a national treasure we should support its success in the same way we do for our Olympians.

What have you learnt this week? #WILTW

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