Thank you for contacting me about how to fund the NHS in the future. Four generations of my family have worked for the NHS so its particularly dear to my heart. I have used it throughout my life – notably when both my daughters were born at the QMC. I fully support Government plans to provide the extra funds the NHS needs and will continue to make the case for more (and integrated) money for social care. Ensuring it delivers first class services free at the point of delivery is a personal priority (and I suspect one of yours as well).
We currently spend £149.2 billion on the NHS and £21.2 billion on social care – the highest ever amount. As a share of public spending, health spending has risen since 2010 but, and it is a very big but, we are not spending enough notwithstanding the extra £8 billion boost provided by the Government for the rest of this Parliament.
In short, we need to spend more year on year for some considerable time to ensure our NHS meets the changing needs of our population. It’s not simply that we are all living longer, we are living longer with medical conditions that require modern drugs and technology.
I wrote to the Prime Minister alongside other colleagues in March asking for a long term funding settlement for the NHS. As I am sure you are aware, the Prime Minister recently announced the Government’s intention to implement a long-term funding plan for the NHS from the next spending review. The NHS will receive increased funding of £20.5 billion per year by the end of 5 years. This long-term funding commitment means the NHS has the financial security to develop a 10-year plan.
This will accompany the Government’s integration of health and social care, and ensure that the NHS can properly meet the demands of the future. I fully support this, as I believe it will be an excellent opportunity to build a secure NHS workforce for the future, and drive continued improvements in quality and efficiency in the health service.
Money doesn’t grow on trees, so it will have to come from a rise in income tax in my view. I am not a fan of what are called hypothecated taxes for various reasons, but in any event, I believe we would all pay more for a properly funded health and social care service by whatever means.
My view is that both should share funding so we end the damaging divide between NHS spend and social care spend. I object to people having to pay for their social care if they get dementia and will argue for the gradual removal of the current system. I would however have a radical overhaul of benefits for people, like me, who are over 60 and in work. I see no good reason why I or anyone else in work on good pay, should get free prescriptions, fuel allowances, travel cards and the like simply because we have reached a certain age. And I agree with my colleague and friend Ken Clarke that people of pensionable age who are still working and earning well (like Ken) should continue to pay National Insurance.
I also believe we need a radical overhaul of public health to encourage us all to take more responsibility for our health. I particularly support tough measures to reduce childhood obesity – including a reassessment of how our primary schools are spending the £18,000 they all receive to provide sport and PE to under 11’s.