Is the National Health Service a cost, or a benefit?

(And why the answer really matters)

When it comes to the NHS, the cost in money terms is easily calculated but the benefit is not. And that cost mostly goes on people. Buildings and equipment are useful, but ultimately it is people who make other people better.

To describe health carers as a “cost” is frankly a bit weird. A cost is something one wants as little of as possible. But when someone is making you better you want as much of them as you can get.

This goes to the heart of Britain’s chronic Money Disease. The key symptom of that disease is the idea that economic activity is only beneficial if it leads to the accumulation of money-wealth. Health-carers don’t do that, which is why the NHS is permanently starved of cash.

But health-carers do something much cleverer and much more useful. They take money-wealth and they turn it through their work into real-life wealth – literally life rather than death, in some cases.

The more of that real-life wealth that can be created, the richer society becomes. The trick, therefore, is to allocate to the NHS not as little money as possible but as much as it can productively use to make society as rich as possible in health terms.

That is still a judgement call: it is possible to allocate too much money. But allocating insufficient money is not a saving to society. On the contrary, it makes society poorer by making the NHS less productive than it would otherwise be.

The NHS is not a cost to society, but a wealth creator. Money is merely the tool that makes such wealth creation possible.