Working together, improving lives

February 2023

75 Years Of Healthcare - Comparing Differences Between The 1950's And 2020's

In today’s society, we often negate how easily accessible healthcare is to us. Although wait times have increased in recent years, propelled by supply issues and the pandemic, in most cases the Healthcare industry and the NHS are largely reliable services and there for us when we need it most. Cast your mind back 75 years ago, the NHS was still in its infancy and our understanding of health, wellbeing and disease was a fraction of what it is today. With the advancement in technologies too, a lot of what we know has changed. In this edition of the Dean Healthcare blog, we’re taking a look at more than 70 years of health and healthcare, including some interesting statistics and mind-bending facts!

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1. We spend a lot more on Healthcare now than in the past

In 1950, UK health spending as a percentage of GDP (the value of goods and services of an economy) stood at 3.5%. Today this figure has nearly tripled to more than 9%. The budget allocated for Healthcare is now 144 billion pounds per year too, compared with just 0.4 billion back in 1950 – this is an increase of 35,900%!

2. There are also more Healthcare professionals than ever before

In 1948, the number of full time Nurses, Doctors and GP practitioners in the UK numbered 93,597. Today the number of those employed in the industry has inflated to 434,896. Although this may sound high, the industry still requires a vast number of skilled healthcare professionals to meet demand.

3. People are living longer thanks to Healthcare advances

As our technology and understanding of disease, cure and prevention expands, so too does our life expectancy. 75 years ago the average life expectancy for a male-born individual in the UK was 66 years. Today the average expectancy has grown to 79.5 years. With female-born individuals this figure has increased from 70.3 years to 83.1 years. An almost equal increase of 13 years.

4. Serious and common disease are thought to be more controllable than before

From 1970 to 1948 (twenty two years after the NHS was first established) cancer survival rates including breast and bowel cancer had doubled. Since 1970, these survival rates have doubled once again and today more than 700 people start their first cancer treatment following a timely diagnosis, each day.

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5. More is spent on Healthcare per person than ever before, but it still falls short.

Back in the 1950’s, the average amount spent on healthcare related interests stood at just £9 per person, per year. (Equivalent to £394 today). As of 2020 more than £2,989 is spent per head in the UK. Although this might sound like a high figure, when comparing the UK to other developed nations it ranks close to average, being a little higher than the median spend of £2,913 per person. For comparison, Ireland, our closest neighbour spends £3,510. France spends £3,737 and the United States spends £7,736 on Healthcare per person, per year.

6. Fewer patients, more staff members

Another interesting statistic is the fall in the number of people per available Healthcare professional. For example, in 1948, there were 641 people per full-time Nurse. Today this figure is just 174 people per Nurse. Similarly, there were 3,328 people for every doctor in the UK 75 years ago, today this figure stands at 473 people. It is important to have fewer people per healthcare professional because it ensures shorter wait times, quicker response times and more people being seen to and receiving the treatment they need.

7. The biggest killer has also changed dramatically in 70 years.

In the 1950’s the three most common causes for death by disease were heart disease, stroke and cancer. The death rate for those who had heart disease stood at 28.8%. Today this figure is almost half what it was at 15.5%. Similarly rates of stroke deaths have almost halved too, from 11.8% in 1950, to 6.6% today. Interestingly, rates of cancer deaths have increased over time. In 1950, cancer killed 16.8% of those affected by the disease, however today this figure is as high as 27.8%. However, it should be noted that the most common considered reason for higher cancer death rates is because we now live much longer than before, and us such our genetic DNA produces more errors as a result. The likelihood of developing cancer is simply higher as we live longer lives than before.

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We hope the above information about the Healthcare industry and its development has provided you with some food for thought. To read more insightful blog entries like this one, visit our news page at