Funding mechanism is complex - but NHS does need a cash boost
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown
On the face of it the government's plans to deal with crisis faced by the NHS and social care sector looks at first sight like a reasonable attempt to deal with the problems as they exist at the moment.
But it is very unwise for anyone to make any instant judgement on proposals like this - everyone can remember budget statements that seem great at the time but have been seen as bad news once all the small print is read.
The key point about these proposals is that they raise money without putting up income tax - which should be welcomed by politicians of both main parties.
Because this country appears to have an obsession against putting up income tax - even though it is the fairest and most equitable way of increasing government revenue.
The device Messrs Johnson, Sunak and Javid have come up with to raise the money is a mixture of National Insurance, taxes on dividends, and ultimately a health and social care levy starting in 2023.
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We'll all end up paying a fairly significant sum to this every year - and I for one don't begrudge that for a millisecond. The NHS has been very good to me.
But wouldn't it make more sense to just say: "We're putting up income tax and corporation tax by X% to pay for this?" You'd have people probably paying exactly the same amount of money but instead of having a whole new tax collection mechanism, you could bolt it on to the system already in place.
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It's a bit like the "social care levy" that county councils can now impose on council taxpayers.
Why can't the government and local authorities just be honest and say they're putting up council tax by more than their 2% Holy Grail? It really doesn't make any difference where the money comes from.
Having said all that, the initial feeling seems to be that the new money will make a difference to the NHS if it comes through fast enough and really gets to where it's needed.
Its efficacy in dealing with care sector problems still has to be fully assessed - there are serious doubts about whether the money put aside will be enough and it's also unclear how the staffing crisis can be addressed now that the supply of workers from the EU has been cut off.
Returning to the NHS, hospital waiting lists have been building up for some time, and accelerated over the last 20 months or so. Clearly some people have put off going to the doctor or to hospitals because of fears of being exposed to Covid. That does need to be addressed.
But at the same time those already "in the system" have been well cared-for as we would expect.
Those who had been diagnosed before Covid have continued to get treatment - and while some non-urgent procedures have been delayed, those in real acute need have received the treatment they needed.
That has sometimes been overlooked - but it has been very important to those directly affected.
Personally I have to make occasional regular visits to Ipswich Hospital and I have been really impressed by the way it has carried on working throughout everything.
And there has been one innovation that has made life so much easier for us occasional visitors.
I know there have been critics of the system, but the new car parking arrangements with ANPR and the ability to pay by card have made life so much easier - you don't have to worry about whether you've put enough coins in the machine when you arrive.
When I told one hospital manager that I like the new parking arrangements, he said: "Put it in your column then." Consider it done!
There are problems with our hospitals and with primary care delivery - ask the people from north west Ipswich who seem to be caught up in teething troubles at the new Cardinal Medical Practice based at three surgeries in the Norwich Road area!
The extra resources are vital to get to grips with the overall problems facing the health and care services. But so far as the NHS is concerned it's worth remembering it is still there and doing a great job for millions of people.
But it does need significant new resources which it is appearing to get. The method used to raise those resources may be over-complicated and bureaucratic but I suspect most people will just be relieved to see the funds flowing in!