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Labour in dilemma over future NHS funding

Labour is engaged in a critical debate ahead of its annual conference over the future of the NHS.

It hinges on whether the party should make an election commitment next year to extra NHS funding.

Some senior Labour figures are telling leader Ed Miliband to be bold to protect the NHS. They say the NHS needs a 1p tax rise so it has enough money to integrate more effectively with social care and drive standards.

Labour’s shadow chancellor, Ed Balls, however, has ruled out earmarking a 1p increase in national insurance contributions to help fund the NHS, saying people felt they were already paying too much tax.

He is also reportedly against an inheritance tax to pay for an integrated health and social care service, being reluctant to commit any more money to the NHS than the Conservatives.

Campaign group 38degrees are currently running a petition to encourage the Labour leader to be bold and see extra NHS funding as a potential vote winner.

The dilemma is whether the NHS can become the party’s single strongest issue and its best route to forming a majority government in May.

Polling this week by Ipsos/Mori found that health was the third most important issue facing voters, behind the economy and immigration.

Labour has a huge lead over the Tories on health and it is looking to roll back the privatisation of the NHS as part of its manifesto – which is likely to be a popular move.

YouGov research shows voters evenly split on whether they would like to see income tax rise to fund the health service.

On welfare benefits for poor families, state schools, state pensions and social care for the elderly respondents indicated that the current levels of tax were sufficient.

However, on the NHS a majority opted for higher tax – though only by a three-point margin.

Other sources for temporary funding have not been ruled out by the Labour Party, including a “sin tax” on public health polluters such as tobacco companies and alcohol producers.

The Conservative Party maintain that better integration of health and care following their reforms in the Health Act will deliver the efficiencies needed for NHS funding going forwards.

The recent Barker Commission, however, suggested that while health and care integration is desirable to improve the quality of care, it’s unlikely to deliver significant savings.

Ahead of the political party conference season, the Royal College of Physicians called on politicians to stop reorganising the NHS from the top down, increase funding to avoid a crisis in care, and commit to an NHS free at the point of delivery.

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One Response to “Labour in dilemma over future NHS funding”

  1. Malcolm Morrison says:

    I do wish that the NHS could stop being used as a ‘political football’!

    When will ALL politicians, of ALL parties, realise that it is time to put aside their political ideologies and discuss, sensibly, the ‘future of the NHS’ – and define WHAT services it SHOULD be providing; and HOW they will be funded.

    The facts is that the NHS is near ‘crisis point’. For years DEMAND HAS EXCEEDED SUPPLY. There are only two possible solutions: Reduce demand (RATIONING); or increase supply (INCREASED FUNDING) – or a mixture of both. These are POLITICAL (not medical) decisions; and politicians MUST FACE THEM

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