Boris Johnson has warned of Labour wanting to take Britain “back to the 1970s” and it does seem that many of the lessons from that dismal decade have been forgotten. Loss making business was not preferable to operating at a profit – nor did taxpayer subsidy guarantee lower prices or a better service. Rent control did reduce the supply in the private rented sector. Nationalisation was not more efficient that free enterprise. Penal tax rates to punish success and hard work did hold back the economy and reduce tax revenues.

Then there was the nostalgic debate about “pay beds” in the NHS. Nye Bevan accepted the benefit of having them. The Labour Government reduced their number – although did not abolish them – on the grounds that they amounted to “queue jumping”. But as the NHS charged more than the cost they provided a useful source of revenue. It helped make the queue shorter.

Anyway here we are again with denouncing private patients being allowed with the NHS.

The BBC reports:

“On the campaign trail in Stevenage, Mr Miliband claimed NHS patients would be pushed to the back of longer and longer queues in a “two-tier NHS”.

Labour says leading English hospitals saw income from private patients rise by more than half since 2010.”

In 2013/14 the NHS got 0.7 per cent of its income in this way. In 2010/11 it was 0.71 per cent. Anyway it is under one per cent. The claim that income “has risen by more than half” might the be case in some “leading hospitals” but doesn’t seem to be overall.

Also in a way a figure below one per cent is not very much – but then the NHS budget is £116bn for this year.

If Labour is going to deprive NHS trusts of upwards of a billion pounds then where would the shortfall come from? Would the NHS get extra money from the taxpayer to compensate? Where would that money come from?

So far as I can understand Labour’s proposal is to impose a cap of two per cent for each NHS trust. There doesn’t seem to be any logic there. If Labour really believe that private provision is immoral and a great betrayal of the NHS then why not set the limit at nil? Otherwise some may conclude that the announcement is just a gimmick.

Labour have come up with some figures that on average each NHS trust has increased its income by a million pounds a year from private patients under this Government. Let us assume those figures are accurate and also assumes that Labour would like to reverse them. There are 145 NHS trusts so would Labour like to see a funding gap of £145 million – on top of all the other financial pressures?

If Labour’s policy would result in a reduction in income to the NHS then Labour should make clear how much money the NHS would lose. Nearly a billion? £140 million? They should also be clear as to whether or not that money would be replaced and if so how.


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