Figures acquired regarding elderly patients indicates massive financial problems for the NHS on the horizon.
Hospital care for the average 89-year-old man costs the National Health Service over 900% more each year than for the average 50-year-old man.
And this figure expands to an astounding 1,800% more when compared to the average 30-year-old male.
Both the frequency and expensive nature of treatments required for older patients contributes to this financial gulf.
While these figures provides an interesting insight into the nature of health expenditure, they also provide a massive conundrum for the National Health Service.
With the population of the UK growing older, and the demographic trends indicating that this process will accelerate in the coming years, it is clear that the NHS will face massive challenges in dealing with the elderly.
And the patients requiring the most care and attention will also incur a massive economic burden on the NHS going forward.
Already, just 1% of people in the UK account for more than one-fifth of NHS spending.
Currently, 8% of the UK population is aged 75 and over, while 63% of the population is aged between 16 and 64, largely comprising those of working age, paying taxes and placing limited demands on the NHS.
But this picture will alter radically in the coming years, with a ‘greying’ process taking place, meaning that the average age of British people become significantly older.
By 2065, it is projected that 16% of the population will be aged 75 and over and just 56% will be aged between 16 and 64.
In other words, a growing fraction of the population will need relatively expensive healthcare and a declining fraction will be working to pay for it.
This would be problematical enough in itself, but the NHS is already arguably in a perilous financial state, with the government openly requiring £22 billion of efficiency savings by the end of the decade.
There is no doubt that this is a situation which must be addressed by government sooner rather than later.
It is inevitable that Britain will need to devote an increasing percentage of its overall GDP to paying for healthcare in the coming years, even if the NHS intends to provide the existing quality and quantity of healthcare free at the point of consumption, and even if the price of this does not increase.
Of course, considering the technological advances which the population will obviously wish to embrace, and the fact that the expenses associated with healthcare naturally inflate over time, even a stable scenario is hugely unrealistic.
The reality is that extremely hard decisions will need to be taken with regard to spending, funding and taxation by future governments if the NHS is to survive.
Another possible alternative is that the NHS could eventually cease offering some services which we take for granted as free at the point of use.