It seems more than half of the UK’s voting public would be willing to pay more income tax in order to fund the National Health Service.
Pollsters ComRes told The Guardian that 49 per cent of people would accept a tax hike if the money went directly to the NHS, compared with 33 per cent who would not and 18 per cent who didn’t know what they would do.
This must be very gratifying for David Cameron, whose creeping privatisation of the NHS is at least partly to blame for the increasing deficit faced by the UK’s flagship public service. The Private Finance Initiative, introduced by the Conservatives in the early 1990s, must also take much of the flak, along with a reduced funding commitment from the Coalition government.
(We can’t be sure about the government’s funding commitment. Back in 2010, then-NHS chief exec Sir David Nicholson said it would have to make £20 billion of efficiency savings within four years – but the Coalition Agreement of 2010 promised “We will guarantee that health spending increases in real terms in each year of the Parliament”. However – again – by late 2012 the figures showed a real-terms cut in expenditure which meant the government was not taking its commitment seriously.)
Professor Chris Ham, chief executive of health thinktank The King’s Fund, reckons people want to help the NHS because they have been led to believe that it is starting to struggle financially and clinically, and because they value it very highly.
This indicates that the public has been misled.
Look at the Private Finance Initiative. According to Private Eye (issue 1,369, p34), buying its way out of a PFI contract for Hexham General Hospital will cost Northumbria NHS Foundation Trust no less than £114.2 million. That’s exorbitant enough, but consider this: the buy-out will save around £3.5 million a year on PFI costs over the 19 years the contract would otherwise have had to run.
How badly are PFI contracts crippling the NHS? Well, according to The Guardian, PFI repayments were costing the service £1.76 billion – that’s almost two per cent of the £100+billion budget.
That pales into insignificance next to the amount spent on contracts for private companies to carry out NHS work – £6 billion. Some of that, admittedly, will go into healthcare – but a large proportion will be hived off as profit.
And then there are the real-terms expenditure cuts that appear to be part of government policy. Spending has not risen in real terms since the Coalition government came into office in 2010.
No wonder the NHS is in trouble.
So thank goodness for all the kind-hearted earners who are happy to pay an extra penny from every pound they earn, for the NHS. But that won’t cover the projected £30 billion gap in its finances by 2020.
Taking average earnings to be £26,000 per year (as the government does), then every earner would have to pay an extra 4p in the pound. Tax paid on £26k per annum is 20p in the pound, so that’s a tax increase of nearly 17 per cent or one-sixth.
Earners would be £1,040 per year worse-off. That could put many of them in financial difficulty.
And they would be paying debts accrued by big businesses who wanted to profit from healthcare.
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