Dr Dan Poulter, Conservative MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, has called for the introduction of a new health and care tax to save the NHS and social care system from complete collapse.
That there is a funding gap is indisputable. A key pledge in the 2015 Conservative manifesto aimed to implement a cap of £72,000 on care costs for over-65s and younger adults with disabilities, after which the state would pay, but following the election, then prime minister David Cameron delayed the scheme’s introduction until 2020 due to a lack of funds.
Postponed Not Abandoned?
While the Department of Health’s position is that the cap is postponed, not abandoned, Poulter believes rising costs mean the policy has little chance of implementation. Having seen first-hand people obliged to stay in hospital because social care wasn’t in place, he said: “A long-term plan to ensure a properly funded and sustainable health and social care system is urgently required, and I believe a health and care tax – perhaps introduced through raising National Insurance – offers one of the simplest ways forward.”
Poulter claims this would make care provision sustainable and safeguard it from the vagaries of the wider economy, but is he right? The idea is certainly not unprecedented – in the 2002 budget, Labour introduced an increase of one penny in the pound on employee and employer National Insurance contributions to fund an NHS spending increase of £40bn over five years.
A Sustainable Future
Poulter has support from the chair of the Care and Support Alliance, Vicky McDermott, who believes the twin crises hitting the NHS and social care are inextricably linked. She said: “The government needs to get to grips with the scale of the social care crisis. The reality is that at least a million people aren’t getting the basic care they need.”
Richard Murray, of the King’s Fund think tank, believes that: “A frank and open debate is needed on how to fund health and social care on a sustainable basis into the future, recognising that a long-term strategy will exceed the lifetime of a single Parliament.”
That seems to make sense, but while few would argue that health and social care are key and require sustainable funding, most people would be unlikely to welcome a solution that involves paying higher taxes.
What do you think of Dr Poulter’s proposal? Would you be prepared to pay more tax to prevent hospital closures, cutbacks and radical changes to the way health and social care is delivered in your community? Let us know in the comments below or post on our Facebook page.