We\’re Killing Ourselves!

Look out for more restrictions on who can have NHS treatment: you\’ll need to have your ID card marked with the portions of fruit and vegetables you\’ve consumed each day before long.

Almost 70,000 deaths could be avoided every year if Britons followed healthy eating guidelines, a wide-ranging government report says.

However, it\’s a little difficult to take the figures on offer seriously.

The nation\’s poor diet costs the economy £10 billion, of which £7.7 billion comprises NHS treatment that could be avoided if people cut down on fatty and salty foods and ate more fresh fruit and vegetables.

There\’s a basic point about the NHS. Because it covers us all, for our lifetimes, it\’s rather difficult for us to cost it money by dying early.

Those who die prematurely would have lived for almost 10 years longer if they adhered to dietary advice, the report says.

Hmmm. Now, NHS spending per capita (from memory here, so hope I\’ve got it right) is some £1,800 a year. Pop your clogs 10 years early and the NHS thus saves £18,000 on you. And if you don\’t die of your unhealthy lifestyle, you\’re going to die of something else, something which may cost more or less than what you have got.

So while we can indeed say that the costs of treating those with these diet related diseases is £7.7 billion, when we do we\’re not actually being all that honest. For the amount saved by those 70,000 having 10 years of NHS treatment is £12 billion or so (please note, these are very rough numbers indeed, used only for comparison).

…the report says that if everybody ate healthily the economy would be £20 billion better off due to the reduced health care costs and extra years of productive life.

That\’s also a terribly suspect figure. We\’re told that it\’s 10 years of life being given up on average. The average lifespan is into the late 70s for men, early 80s for women. Whether we assume that this is before that extra 10 years or after it, those extra 10 years are all past the pensionable age. People at this time of life are not known as contributors to the economy (please note that this has nothing to do with the fact that rising lifespans are a great idea, we\’re talking solely about the financial calculations here), in fact, they\’re known as something of a drain on it. 70,000 people with another decade of the State pension is actually a cost of some £35 billion rather than a contribution to the productive side of the economy.

But don\’t worry, government policy is going to be determined by what\’s in that report, not what is actually true. Aren\’t we lucky?

5 comments on “We\’re Killing Ourselves!

  1. As a rule, I regard any press release that talks about costs to the economy as suspect.

    It is nearly always a lobby for removing individual freedom in favour of “society”.

  2. Let’s say the 70,000 fat bastards destined to die in 2008 get another ten years. They will only kick the bucket in 2018. But what about the batch marked for recall in 2009? Surely they will now live on until 2019.

    If we continue this line of thinking, by the end of 2017 there will be 700,000 extra people alive who would otherwise be dead. In 2018 the first lot will finally keel over, but they will immediately be replaced by a new crowd. thus after ten years the numbers will stabilise at 700,000. That’s 700,000 extra “crumblie care years” added to the NHS bill every year.

    At Tim’s estimate of 1,800 sovs per annum that adds up to 1,260,000,000 quid a year.

    But medical costs for oldies must be far higher than average. Perhaps five times more (I’m guessing here). This would give an additional medical cost of 6.3 billion per annum by 2018. And this hasn’t factored in all the other, non-NHS, welfare costs (state pensions, home carers, homes, winter fuel allowance, bus passes, you name it). Say this equals the medical costs. By 2018 the cost of those extra 700,000 would be 12.6 billion (in uninflated terms). Against a similarly uninflated saving of 7.7 billion in healthcare costs.

    Using the above numbers and growth assumptions, and assuming the bonus time was all unproductive retirment, it would only take 6 years before the scheme turned a net loss.

    Man! I love playing irresonsibly with big numbers.

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