Thank you to everyone who has contacted me recently about NHS funding and the related campaign by 38 degrees.
I hope it goes without saying that I share your concerns about the sustained underfunding of our NHS. Eight years of cuts and the biggest financial squeeze in its history have pushed the NHS to the brink and I believe it is patients who are paying the price.
On all key performance measures, the NHS is struggling to keep up with demand: A&E performance hit a record low this year; more than 4 million people are stuck on waiting lists; and cancer targets are repeatedly being missed. Locally we are seeing the effects of underfunding more and more and I have regular meetings with our local health partners to discuss this. Mental health services in particular are being pushed to breaking point thanks to the combination of an underfunded health service and massive cuts to local government.
The Government’s announcement that it will increase expenditure on the NHS by an average of 3.4% annually over the next five years represents little more than a standstill. It is less than what experts have been calling for and I believe it is insufficient to deliver the much-needed improvements in care. On social care, Ministers have pledged just £240 million, yet since 2010 there are 400,000 fewer people receiving care.
My Labour Party colleagues and I have repeatedly called for a long-term investment plan for the NHS and social care sector, funded by increasing taxation on the very wealthiest in society. So far, Ministers have refused to set out how they will pay for their proposed increase. The Prime Minister has suggested that a combination of higher taxes and a so-called “Brexit dividend” will fund future rises. However, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has said concerning the Brexit dividend that “there is literally zero available” over this period.
At the 2017 general election, I stood on a fully costed manifesto with a commitment to invest an extra £37 billion into the NHS and £8 billion into social care. This would have been funded by increasing income tax for the top 5% of earners, raising tax on private medical insurance and reversing cuts to corporation tax. The IFS confirmed that this would have amounted to almost £9 billion extra for health and social care in the first year – an immediate increase of more than 5%.
I can assure you that my Labour colleagues and I will continue to do all we can to press the Government on this incredibly important issue.