As part of the work for our forthcoming report on NHS financial pressures, we examined how the media have reported on NHS pressures in recent years by looking at coverage of the controversial and sometimes highly emotive term ‘rationing’.
We undertook a retrospective search for articles mentioning the term rationing in relation to the NHS in eight media sources (BBC News, Daily Mail, The Guardian, The Metro, The Mirror, The Sun, The Times and The Telegraph) between January 2011 and December 2016.
NHS rationing was reported regularly throughout the five-year period, but increased markedly towards the end. A total of 86 stories in 2011 grew to 144 in 2015 and 225 in 2016. There was also a shift in the nature of reporting: in the latter half of 2016, we started to see increasingly hard-hitting stories about rationing due to the severe financial difficulties facing the NHS, with warnings that it is ‘in meltdown’ and ‘on the brink of collapse’.
The results of our search also provide an insight into the sorts of things that are reported as rationing, revealing that the term is usually understood to relate to access. Common subjects include: variations in access between different areas (often described as the ‘postcode lottery’); restrictions in access to drugs, equipment, surgery and other procedures; and rising waiting times for treatment.
Full Article from the Kings Fund, 16 February 2017