Pay more tax or expect less from the NHS

Public will accept tax rises for the NHS if they see their money is not wasted, says Jeremy Hunt  Public would be willing to pay more for the NHS, provided the money was not wasted – Jeremy Hunt

Public will accept tax rises for the NHS if they see their money is not wasted, says Jeremy Hunt 

NHS funding would need to increase by 4% every year for 15 years to modernise the NHS as the population ages, a report states.

Picture: PA Images

In fact just to keep provision at its current levels, healthcare spending would have to rise by an average 3.3% a year over the next 15 years, according to a report by the Health Foundation and the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), in association with the NHS Confederation.

Speaking at the launch of the report, The world's biggest quango: the first five years of NHS England, health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt said he believed there was a public appetite to pay more tax for the NHS if they money is spent wisely.

‘We depend on a strong economy’

He told his audience: 'Poll after poll shows people recognise that through the tax system we will end up having to contribute more. There is a willingness to do that, providing they can see the money going to the NHS and is not being wasted.

'The Chancellor understands he has a responsibility to make sure funding for all public services is within what the country can afford. That is important because the NHS depends on a strong economy more than other health systems, because the vast majority of our funding comes directly from tax.'

Mr Hunt said prime minister Theresa May recognised the need for a 'multi-year settlement' of health spending.

Raiding other budgets

The report's authors conclude that in the past, increased spending on health has been paid for by spending cuts in other areas. They said there is now no more room for such further cuts in other areas, in areas such as defence or housing.

The report states: 'The implication is clear: in the medium term, if we want even to maintain health and social care provision at current levels, taxes will have to rise.' 

The document argues that relying solely on taxation to pay for a modernised NHS would increase the UK tax burden as a share of gross domestic product (GDP) to historically high levels.

This would reflect the fact that there are projected to be 4.4 million more people in the UK age 65 and over by 2034, with the number of people with complex long-term conditions predicted to soar.

One of the biggest choices in a generation

IFS director and report co-author Paul Johnson, said: 'We are finally coming face to face with one of the biggest choices in a generation.

'If we are to have a health and social care system which meets our needs and aspirations, we will have to pay a lot more for it over the next 15 years. This time we won't be able to rely on cutting spending elsewhere – we will have to pay more in tax.

'But it is a choice: higher taxes and a health and social care system which meets our expectations and improves over time, or taxes at current levels and a more constrained health service delivering less than we have become accustomed to.'

The report comes as the government discusses the long-term plan for the NHS, promised by Theresa May earlier this year.

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