The NHS is one of the most prided organisations in Britain, and our education system is raising the next generation that will soon dominate our world. Even though Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, and Prime Minister, Theresa May, have both declared “the beginning of the end” of the eight years of austerity, the public sector is quite possibly under more pressure, financial and social, than ever before.

NHS staff and state-sector teachers are working harder than ever to perform their vital and evolving roles in our society, yet for the last decade all public sector jobs have had their pay rises capped and frozen on numerous occasions. Today, chaos has become the accepted situation, with various television programmes like the BBC’s Hospital and Channel 4’s Educating… series exposing the public to the turmoil within the services that keep the country running. Many now wonder what the future holds and ultimately, how long until the current system collapses?

Since the end of the 19th Century, primary and secondary education in the UK has been free and compulsory. In the last few years, students have become very accustomed to budget cuts, and have been labelled “the Austerity generation”. With class sizes rising into the 30s, and shortages of qualified teachers, state-educated children’s education and school lives are constantly compromised by politics, and it is clear that things need to change to prevent a total crisis.

The scene is similar with healthcare. The NHS has been labelled as “underfunded, underdoctored [and] overstretched” by the Royal College of Physicians. Performance in many wards has been dropping below standards: in 2017, it was revealed that only 77.3% of NHS England A&E patients are seen within four hours, far below the target of 95%. Furthermore, an ageing population means medical infrastructure and procedures are in need of renewal, as the type of illnesses and ailments we suffer from is changing. Mental healthcare is severely underfunded for such a widespread issue, which often puts added stress on hospitals as they have to take up valuable beds with mental health patients. The NHS is an invaluable resource to the large majority UK citizens, and a life-saver on a daily basis. Despite this, it seems so fragile, and prospects of life without a NHS are frightening.

At this point, it seems logical to blame lack of money solely for the frailty of our public sector. However, there is little evidence suggesting that simply more capital would fix all our problems. On the contrary, both sectors have issues with deeper roots. 

The success of schools is sometimes affected by pupils with poor attendance or poor attitudes to learning. This is detrimental not just to the troublesome pupils themselves, but to an entire class or even year group. Some feel that an ability-based system (like that of grammar or independent schools) would prevent students willing to work from being adversely affected by this. It would also allow learning to be tailored to particular learning styles, so everyone would maximise their personal potential. Unfortunately there is reluctance to continue the existence of grammar schools, yet alone set up a fully ability-tiered system, because of concerns about inclusivity. An alternative approach is that of Finland, which has one of the best education systems in the world. Firstly, teachers need master’s degrees to qualify, giving the profession a prestige which entices a large stream of new recruits. This due respect for teaching staff is not found in the UK, where over 2000 of our teachers in schools are unqualified to teach. I wonder if it is really so surprising that there is a teacher shortage, considering how undervalued they feel.

Similarly, there are many strategical and structural changes that could revolutionise and salvage our healthcare system. Despite the NHS being an acclaimed source of British pride, it isn’t without fault. One of the faults is us, the patients. Because the NHS is a free service, it is often abused. 999 calls and GP visits for unnecessary reasons put pressure on already cramped doctors and nurses, and waste money that really should be spent elsewhere.  Lifestyle choices also cause the service grief, as numbers for smoking-induced illness and obesity, for example, are becoming more and more costly.

Staffing shortages are not unique to teaching either: NHS vacancies for many positions are higher than ever, and this situation is likely to get worse in the advent of Brexit — despite reassurance that NHS workers will be able to stay in the country, there is no guarantee that they will want to. Doctors and nurses from EU countries make up 10% of the NHS workforce. Brexit is also forecast to increase the price of the drugs that we are offered for free, which would invoke larger debts, and even less money.

Dr G Das, for The Independent, wrote, "The purpose of the NHS needs to be redefined so that it is fit for purpose in 2018." He explains that the connotation of a social support net that the NHS carries needs to be erased. Hospitals should be used for treating a patient of illness or injury, and then discharging them, instead of being a place to sleep or for someone to talk to: for which purpose we should have a separate service.

However, these are all very radical changes and this type of transformation would cost billions of pounds: money which the government does not have. There is an unescapable loop, a catch-22: there is no money to fix the problems, so the problems get worse but therefore require more money to fix in the future. All that we do know is that something needs to be done before the UK ends up in turmoil, and a very radical plan, unlike anything seen before, is the only way to achieve this.