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The National Health Service, more commonly known as the NHS, is the United Kingdom’s all-in-one healthcare system. The NHS provides comprehensive, free care to all of the country’s residents, and has been running for more than 50 years. However, recent years have repeatedly shown numerous struggles raging within the NHS: between a lack of qualified staff and tough financial standings, the government organization may seem like it’s seriously in need of reform.

In this article, we’ll use PESTLE analysis — which looks at the Political, Economic, Sociocultural, Technological, Legal, and Environmental factors affecting a business or organization — to review the NHS’ current and future operational standings. With this, it should be possible to gain a better insight on where the government agency is set to go into the future.

Political Factors

Here is a Political factor affecting the NHS:

Brexit uncertainties

Perhaps the biggest question mark in current UK politics is that of Brexit. The United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union is set to have widespread consequences on society, and that includes public institutions such as the NHS. A number of articles have been published speculating how Brexit might impact the NHS, but nothing is sure just yet. For example, there are uncertainties surrounding how medication and equipment originating from the EU will be brought into the UK. Perhaps a more serious issue is that of staffing: with a great number of medical professionals originally from other European countries, there are concerns that the NHS’ workforce might take a hit if Brexit results in stricter or less favorable living conditions for foreigners.

Economic Factors

Here are two Economic factors affecting the NHS:

Economic downturn

Following the 2008 financial crisis, the entire world has experienced an economic downturn. Of course, the United Kingdom was in no way immune to this economic setback, and this is something that has impacted the NHS. For more than a decade, the NHS is said to have been facing financial troubles (due to economic reasons as much as regulatory ones). This makes it difficult for the NHS to provide a sufficient quality of care to its patients. The biggest manner in which this has manifested is in a serious lack of qualified staff. With mediocre salaries, the NHS has never been a particularly attractive workplace for clinical professionals. 

Austerity measures

In response to the recent economic downturn, the United Kingdom’s government introduced a wide variety of austerity measures with the goal of cutting down on public spending. While the NHS was never directly affected by this austerity (in terms of a budget cut), it’s believed that austerity measures had an indirect effect on the finances of the NHS, further exacerbating the organization’s money problems.

Sociocultural factors

Here are two Sociocultural factors affecting the NHS:

Aging population

Across the world, a common phenomenon is that of an aging population. As healthcare improves, the average age of populations is increasing. Although this is very much a good thing, an older population tends to have more health problems. Conditions like diabetes and various cancers tend to develop in later stages of life, and can be extremely costly to treat or manage. As a result, the UK’s aging population is placing an additional strain on the NHS.

High patient expectations

With the advent of social media (allowing information to spread faster than ever) and improved educational systems, patient’s expectations are higher than ever. Patients tend to have a much better knowledge of the treatment options available to them, and in developed countries (like the UK), expect government organizations to spare no expense on treatment. While this reduces mortality and is, once again, a mostly positive change, it does create new challenges for the NHS as they are expected to provide better care than ever before.

Technological Factors

Here are two Technological factors affecting the NHS:

Improved healthcare

With new technologies being developed left, right, and center, healthcare is slowly being improved. Scanning tools are more affordable than ever, making them a staple of hospitals and clinics. Various pumps and tools for treating or managing conditions are being developed, decreasing morbidity. Overall, these technological improvements in the healthcare space are a positive for all parties involved. Not only do patients receive a higher standard of care, but government organizations like the NHS are able to speed up and automate more clinical tasks.

Better education

Importantly, technology is also opening the doors to better healthcare education. This applies not only to patients themselves — who are educated by smartwatches and free, high-quality content sources — but also clinical professionals. Since technology makes it so much easier to put the correct information in the hands of the masses, it’s a tool that has yet to be fully taken advantage of. However, with better education of clinical professionals, it should be easier for the NHS to find qualified recruits and provide a high level of care.

Legal Factors

Here is a Legal factor affecting the NHS:

Litigation

A growing trend across the world is that of litigation — in all sorts of circumstances. However, more so than ever, patients (or family members) who are unsatisfied with the quality of their care are taking to courts to seek retribution. This is a phenomenon the NHS is no stranger to: the UK has seen a growing number of healthcare-related lawsuits, and the upward trend shows no signs of stopping. Unfortunately, this presents a new, hefty expense for the healthcare body as it’s forced to invest in expensive legal defenses and pay out numerous settlements.

Environmental

We couldn’t find any Environmental factors affecting the NHS.

PESTLE Analysis of the NHS: Final Thoughts

The United Kingdom’s National Health Service is in a tough spot: with Brexit uncertainties, financial struggles, an aging population, and growing numbers of legal claims, it may seem like nothing is going the right way. Thankfully, changes in technology may make it easier for the body to provide quality healthcare. It does, however, seem that the NHS will need a good deal more financing if it’s set to meet growing expectations.

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