Nick de Bois is a Secretary of the 1922 Committee and MP for Enfield North.
So Labour wants to solve the NHS challenges for the future by raising £30 billion from a one per cent National Insurance increase. Simple, then: that’s the NHS sorted, and we can all carry on as normal.
Except we can’t.
Labour’s answer to almost all of today’s problems is just tax and borrow to spend more, and without doubt their answer to the NHS challenges of the future is always the same, – namely, spend more. In Tony Blair’s first term he did just that, much to the then horror of Gordon “Prudence” Brown before the then Chancellor embarked on the UK’s biggest spending spree ever, which left the country broke by May 2010.
Specifically, Blair promised to inject at least £12bn of extra money into the NHS over six years, which at the time was his reaction to the then Government’s worst period in office, it having experienced a winter flu crisis. His 1997 election pledge of “only 24hrs to save the NHS” was looking so tattered that he reached for the national wallet in panic – and put one per cent on National Insurance
It should do, since this weekend’s idea is essentially setting out more spending without any comprehensive plan for reforming healthcare in this country. In other words, it would if implemented repeat the mistake of Blair who, despite having a reforming Health Secretary in the shape of Alan Millburn, failed to do little more than tinker and spend more.
Worse, the recommendations of Derek Wanless, who conducted a thorough review at the request of Blair setting out what challenges (and solutions) would face the NHS, were essentially over looked. The result was a management-heavy, bureaucratically bloated and fundamentally flawed system that, despite the best efforts of so many in the NHS, delivered such ghastly failures as Mid Stafford.
To be fair, I have made no secret of the fact that the Lansley reforms were stifled by the Lib Dems, a reactionary BMA and other public service unions. Compounded by the fact that the Government failed to make the case for whole scale reform, we have a partially reformed NHS, but not one that is delivering a long term solution for a sustainable health service free at the point of delivery and funded from general taxation.
Earlier this year, I set out why a real consensus needs to be achieved with medical professionals and political parties levelling with the public about the future sustainability of the NHS. There is a desperate need for real change in how we approach health care in England that needs to see beyond short-term temporary funding solutions that kick the matter into the not-so-long grass between one winter crises and the next. Paul Goodman made the point bluntly in his excellent piece for the Times (£) last week.
So what’s behind Labour’s idea of whacking up National Insurance to pump more money into the NHS? Not the future medium and long term sustainability of the NHS, clearly – and, most certainly, no thirst for recognising that building a consensus on how to meet the changing nature of healthcare needs for a changed population should be delivered. It’s simply about appealing to a core 35 per cent vote that might deliver them an election victory on the basis of a simplistic but failed policy of the past.
I hope that the public will look to what Labour have not said.
Their £30 billion would not even plug the deficit anticipated during the next Parliament. So what then: more tax, more borrowing? Their proposed “solution” does not address the fundamental problem of an inevitable annual average increase in demand for NHS healthcare of four per cent – which would mean that Labour’s tax raid of £30 billion would not last for long, but simply paper over the cracks. The sustained increase in demand from the demographic shift in England means that the challenges we face cannot be solved without a fundamental re-think about what the NHS does. We also need to consider how we, the public, take personal responsibility to look after both ourselves and our children – and ask if we are prepared to take more responsibility for self-care, and embrace the use of new technology.
It’s time that Labour stopped trying to con the public ( and their core vote in particular) that failed policies of more tax and more spending are the answer. Plainly, they are not.