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Your NHS needs you … to go plant-based

A new reports reveals the health service could save £6.7 billion a year if everyone in England went vegan

Posted : 1 March 2024

Ever-increasing waiting lists, crowded hospitals, overworked and underpaid staff … Forget the patients, sometimes the NHS itself can feel in need of urgent treatment.

That’s where a plant-based revolution comes in.

New research by the Office for Health Economics has shown that if everyone in England moved to a plant-based diet, the NHS could save an astonishing £6.7 billion a year – a result of there being 2.1 million fewer cases of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity and other health conditions to treat. That money could be ploughed back into dealing with accidents and emergencies and illnesses not linked to lifestyle choices. It’s telling that most of the savings comes from averting the nearly 1.3 million cases of type 2 diabetes.

Nor does the country need to go the whole faux-meat hog to feel the financial benefits. For every 1 million people who switch to healthier, more environmentally friendly food, NHS England would save £121 million.

As the cost of living continues to bite, the research, funded by the Vegan Society, shows the financial value to the health service – and to taxpayers – of cutting back on meat and animal products. In short, eating better means a healthier population, and a healthier population means more money in our pockets. £6.7 billion could cover the salaries of almost 65,000 consultants or almost 185,000 nurses a year, or cover the entire annual budget of seven hospitals.

The researchers also calculated the number of “quality-adjusted life years” gained if 100 per cent of those living in England were to ditch all animal products – that is, how many extra years the population might gain on the planet if we ate with its health and ours in mind. They put the total at 172,735 years. Giving each of those additional years a value of £70,000, they calculated that the net benefit to the NHS could be almost £19 billion.

One of the authors of the report, Dr Chris Sampson, said there was now “compelling” evidence that a plant-based diet can benefit people’s health. “Our analysis takes a significant step towards understanding how dietary choices impact population health and NHS expenditure overall,” he added. “For every million people making the switch to a vegan diet the anticipated reduction in illness could save the NHS a staggering £121 million.”

The report is still awaiting peer review but you can read it here.

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