9 effects of underfunding

Staff shortages

Shortages of staff are widespread within the NHS and exist across all disciplines. The NHS has too few nurses, midwives, GPs, hospital doctors and mental health workers.

Safety compromised

We all want an NHS that has safety at the heart of its service to the public. There is now evidence, however, that lack of funding has already led to compromises in safety due to issues of staffing levels, rationing and delays in treatment.

Delays to treatment

A delay to a patient’s treatment can be due to various reasons, some are obvious, such as too few staff leading to a long wait in A&E or lack of equipment resulting in a delay to carry out a procedure or treatment.

Deskilling the workforce

A large proportion of the NHS’s budget is spent on its workforce, indeed this cost is three-fifths of total NHS providers’ (NHS trusts and foundation trusts) expenditure.

Cuts to frontline services

The Government has always maintained that there will be no cuts to frontline services - money must be saved through efficiency savings, and the NHS budget is ring-fenced, it says. In reality the healthcare budget has been cut and frontline services are being axed.

Crumbling infrastructure

Patient safety, as well as the NHS’ ability to drive down waiting lists and hit performance targets, is being severely hampered because the NHS has one of the worst records for capital investment in the OECD over the past decade.  The NHS's backlog maintenance bill has risen to over £9.2 billion.

Reductions in training

Training is very important in the NHS; the NHS needs to train new staff and it needs to keep its current staff up-to-date with changes in practice and innovations in healthcare.

The Deficit

The past few years have seen the NHS provider sector (NHS trusts and foundation trusts) struggling to cope with increased demand, due to a growing and ageing population, plus rising costs.


An inevitable consequence of underfunding of the NHS is that some element of rationing creeps into the services offered by the organisation.