Letter: Give us health figures straight

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The Independent Online
Sir: Jack O'Sullivan ("Is the NHS safe under Mr Blair's team?", 30 October) is right to suggest that Labour is as short as ever on fresh ideas. But journalists and other commentators repeatedly let the politicians off two hooks.

Firstly, they conspire in using a monetary language which the politicians are only too happy to use to confuse the public: continual reference to the percentage of GDP spent on the NHS.

It is clearer and more relevant to ask whether total health care expenditure per person per year in the UK (1993 figures from OECD health data) at pounds 728 is about right, too much or too little compared with Germany (pounds 1,447), France (pounds 1,335), Canada (pounds 1,218), Portugal (pounds 395) and Greece (pounds 252).

However, that is not the only hook. Your journalists and correspondents (Stephen Pollard, letter 2 November) too readily let the politicians off with phrases such as " ... to increase funding of the NHS ... will simply not be possible beyond what John Major has already pledged since it will require tax increases". That neatly constrains and curtails the argument.

Let us open the debate in relation to how the tax cake is divided up. Should there be a bigger slice to the NHS and less to defence? That is the debate we should be having - and it would be less confusing if your commentators used language understood by all of us.

Dr G DE LACEY

Consultant Radiologist, Northwick Park Hospital

Harrow, Middlesex

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