It's Time to Take the NHS Out of Government Control | Ben Thrussell

Let me make this clear: this does NOT mean privatisation. Even as a Conservative, I cannot stress the importance of a truly national NHS. It is a great asset to our country, and we must do everything possible to protect it.

The NHS, for far too long, has been used as a political tool. Political parties of all nature are guilty of this. The Labour Party, whose greatest achievement is the NHS, has constantly decided that the Tories are “going to privatise it”, or that “only Labour can save the NHS”. The Tories, too, are at fault. In 2010, David Cameron promised to ring-fence the NHS budget to win over voters, but then cut other health provisions instead. Even Vote Leave, an organisation of which I was a member, decided to use the NHS, and giving it more money, to win votes in the EU membership referendum last year.

Almost every year, there is an apparent crisis within our health service, mainly in the winter months. This seems to be the case mainly when the Conservatives are in government, as the Labour left shout “privatisation” and “cuts” again, and again, and again. Admittedly, the NHS is becoming underfunded. According to evidence compiled by the OECD, the UK had only 2.7 beds per 1000 people in 2014, a staggeringly low amount when South Korea, a nation with around 15 million fewer citizens, has 11.7 beds per 1000 people, over four times as many as here. This crisis could be averted easily, just by better management of the entire system.

Better management could start with reducing the ridiculous salaries of NHS bosses. In mid-2016, it went largely unnoticed that an investigation by the Daily Telegraph showed that the NHS paid temporary, yes, temporary, manager, Steve Leivers, a salary of over £60,000 per month, equivalent to £715,000 per year, and 325 bosses had 6-figure salaries, while 43 earned more than the Prime Minister. 199 of these executives worked for Public Health England, the same organisation that supports the sugar tax.  Meanwhile, the NHS ran up its largest ever deficit of £2 billion in 2016. Christopher Snowdon, head of lifestyle economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs, said: “As bad as it is to be bullied and harassed by these joyless puritans, it is worse when you see how many of them are getting filthy rich from it. It is bewildering that this gravy train keeps rolling at a time of supposed austerity.”

As mentioned earlier, the NHS is underfunded. Despite the government’s pledge to increase NHS funding by £8 billion over this parliament, there can be no doubt that the NHS needs to be better funded. I believe that one way to solve this is to increase National Insurance contributions, more specifically for higher earners. If we increase the higher rate of national insurance from its current rate of 2%, we can reduce the funding gap. NIC’s could then form a separate NHS budget, which must, by law, be followed. As it stands, NIC’s make up around £126 billion of tax revenues. Currently, health spending is around £145 billion; a clear gap. By increasing NIC’s for higher earners, and raising Class 4 National Insurance on profits over £43,000, we can cut this gap in spending, fund our NHS better and reduce the deficit at the same time.

There is, as always, a downside to all of this. The first is that it will come at an expense to the taxpayer but, if we want a world class health system, that’s the price we unfortunately need to pay. The second is this: increased funding doesn’t necessarily mean anything. We could provide lots of funding but with no improvements.

Therefore, something must be done to address efficiency within the NHS. The government has already set out plans to find £22 billion in efficiency savings by 2020-21. This, coupled with the further £8 billion promised by the government, should see the NHS funded much better. The OECD has compiled data criticising not just the NHS, but the health spending in many other countries saying that, by improving efficiency of health spending, savings could be made of about 2% of GDP, equivalent in the UK to £36 billion. This would free up a lot of money that has been missing from UK public services; not just the NHS, but education, housing, industry and transport, as well as reducing the government’s still sizeable budget deficit.

Finally, as the title suggests, the NHS should not be run by the government. Instead, a new Non-Governmental Organisation should be set up to run the NHS, as its own executive. This would have a limited number of employees, to reduce bureaucracy and waste, as well as to keep spending to a minimum. The new executive should be made up of health experts, scientists and researchers to aid development of practices and medicines, and business experts who would be able to combat waste and inefficiencies. The only thing that would be controlled by the government would be funding, which should be at least equivalent to income generated from NIC contributions, if not more, if the government wishes to provide more funds. This, hopefully, will make the National Health Service something we can be proud of once again.

It's Time to Take the NHS Out of Government Control | Ben Thrussell It's Time to Take the NHS Out of Government Control | Ben Thrussell Reviewed by Student Voices on 16:53 Rating: 5

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