Funding the NHS

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Note: These numbers are for illustrative purposes only and may not be attributed to the IFS. They do not reflect the views of the IFS.

How to use this tool

This tool has been designed to help you understand the scale of projected NHS funding pressures and think about what these could mean for tax rises or spending cuts in other key areas such as welfare, defence, education or overseas aid. You are free to choose tax rises or spending cuts – and can combine the two.           

NOTE: As national income increases, we would expect tax revenues and spending to rise with it. This tool presents all numbers (the NHS target, spending in other areas and the tax rise) in today’s terms. In each case, you should think of your change as a reduction/increase in spending/tax revenue as a share of national income.

Your “target”

You’ll see an NHS funding “target” on the left at all times. Because the level of funding deemed desirable or realistic is subject to political and personal judgement, we’ll start you on the lower “status quo” funding amount that recently published research suggests is required over the next 15 years just to maintain current levels of service. You can stop there – but as soon as you have reached this amount you will be given the option to continue on to meet the higher target, which is what we project would be needed to implement some improvements.

Tax rises

A government wishing to raise tax revenue could do so in a number of ways. We do not provide specific tax raising options, but instead allow you to increase the total amount raised in tax. We put your tax rise into context by showing you how much extra tax would have to be raised per household. The actual tax increase for a household would depend on the type of tax rise chosen by the government and (among other things) the income and spending patterns of the household. For more information on specific tax raising options, see here. As you use the + feature to increase taxes, you’ll see the amount you have raised expressed in £ billion – as well as a % increase. You’ll also see the target bar on your left shifting upwards, giving you an idea of any “shortfall” so you know how much more you’ll need to raise in tax – or cut elsewhere.

Spending cuts

Historically, successive governments have chosen to increase NHS funding and have paid for this largely by cutting spending as a share of national income on other areas (e.g. defence). It is, however, hard to see how higher health spending in the future could be financed by big cuts to other areas of public spending, especially after eight years of austerity. Nonetheless, it is possible to reduce spending in other areas to avoid or reduce potential tax rises – and you are free to do this by moving the sliders below. As you move the sliders you’ll see your “target” bar on the left move – you’ll also be provided with information on what each area of spending covers so you know what potential services or payments may be cut as a result.

Want to know more?

NHS Report

IFS and Health Foundation recently co-authored a report on NHS funding, which was produced in association with the NHS Confederation. You can find this report on the IFS website

Health Foundation Logo NHS Confederation Logo

This tool has been created by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS). We are grateful to the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), which has provided funding for this sort of activity through an 'Impact Acceleration Account'

If you have feedback on the tool or would like to find out more information, please email