BLOG: Sustainably funding healthcare for all

Dr Ben Martyn, Executive Lead for Investment and International Partnerships, visited Geneva for the G20 Summit in July. He shares his experience and learning with us:

By Dr Ben Martyn

The G20 & G7 Health and Development Partnership (HDP) recently launched a report on “The roadmap to sustainable finance in health” at the H20 Summit: Geopolitical Order at Turning Point & Implications on the Future of Health4All.

Around the world, countries are grappling with the challenge of sustainably funding healthcare for all. Whether that’s increasing access to healthcare in remote areas and developing nations or dealing with the challenge of ageing populations, increasing healthy life spans comes at a cost.

Policy makers often only see the cost of health services and fail to recognise that health spending is an investment. The COVID-19 pandemic was both a health and economic crisis precisely because both are so tightly linked. However, spending on the UK’s health economy provides a return on investment; both through increased economic activity of a healthier population and through growth of the life science sector. 

As the HDP work has shown, every €1 spent in the health economy generates €0.82 in the wider economy, while every €1 spent on health R&D generates €1.85. This is important because in the UK, and particularly in the North of England, we have a productivity challenge, but also an internationally recognised life science research and innovation sector.

Our Health for Wealth report showed that ill-health accounted for 30% of the productivity gap, resulting in £13.2bn GVA lost for the UK economy.  The lower worse health of the northern population made it less resilient to the pandemic, overloading our hospitals to a greater degree and resulting in 17% more deaths. 

The NHS is still working to recover from the COVID backlog, all while dealing with the pre-existing challenges of an ageing population with complex care needs and a workforce crisis.

What does this mean for policy in the UK? Firstly, closing the health divide between the North and the rest of England has to be a serious priority – regardless of if we are doing levelling up’ or not. Any politician not committing to bring healthy life expectancy in the North to the level of the rest of England is both leaving huge value for the economy on the table, and showing a moral disregard for the health of 16m people.

Secondly, leverage the existing life science R&D strengths of our region. Health research has spill over effects for both the economy and the health of the local population. The best clinical trial results come from running trials in diverse representative populations in places where the burden of disease is greatest. Populations with the greatest burden deserve access to the new treatments and technologies as early as possible.

The HDP’s new report sets out the roadmap for creating a framework to allow policy makers to understand and incorporate these benefits into the policy making equation and I look forward to seeing what how the NHSA can work with the health ecosystem to develop these ideas. You can access the report at 

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