Why Don't we Invest in Prevention?

Posted: Mon, 19 Jun 2023 16:44

Why Don't we Invest in Prevention?

As the political parties gear up for the next election, public service reform is back on the agenda. This includes a renewed focus on prevention - for example Labour has recently called for problems to be tackled "with a long-term, preventative approach".

While few would disagree with the shift to prevention, no one has found a way to square this circle within the government's current funding mechanisms. Treasury orthodoxy prioritises known costs over the more risky long-term spending that prevention will require. In the past we have argued for a different funding stream which isn't competing with demand-led costs.

In our case this prevention agenda crosses heath and justice and education for example. We know government can get bring itself to invest in prevention. The Sure Start Centres programme was all about investing in young families and children, acknowledging that early years investment is much better than waiting to pick up the pieces in later years.

For much of the sport and physical activity sector health prevention is of key interest. We wish to be cautious with the drive to sell the sector as the answer to nations health problems as the issue of health inequalities is much more complex than people not keeping themselves fit!


The CEO of the NHS Confederation, Matthew Taylor, assessed the situation well recently when he said: "The NHS needs the support of people just as much as the people need the support of the NHS."

The NHS is unable now, and even more so in the future, to fully service the demands being asked of it unless there is change.

According to the Times Health Commission, ill health among people of working age is projected to cost the UK economy approximately £150 billion a year (equivalent to 7% of GDP) and the cost has increased 60% in the past six years.

The Government must – if it wants to preserve the NHS – make the shift to prevention.

But it does have a choice on how effective and robust that preventative strategy can be.

We are heartened by these speeches and publications from Labour and will do all we can to work with them.


Keir Starmer speech at GMB Congress 2023 - The Labour Party

Mission-Public-Services.pdf (labour.org.uk)

We also look forward to working alongside other Think Tanks on this preventative wellbeing agenda. It requires a mindset shift from Treasury and the economic orthodoxy. We recall early discussions with Treasury over the years on making this work!

SAs this excellent piece of work by Civil Exchange shows the pattern of underinvestment and silo work is not new and keeps being repeated. Civil Exchange - Strengthening Society's Connection to Government

Tags: DCMS, Sports Policy, Treasury