Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/243/24895
Underfunded, Understaffed, Under Threat
OVER THE past week Tony Blair and health secretary Alan Milburn have been preparing the way for tax rises in the coming budget to pay for increased funding of the national health service.
Jackie Grunsell, health worker
There's no doubt that the NHS desperately needs extra money, especially as we spend less in this country (as a percentage of gross domestic product - GDP) on the NHS than practically every other European country.
The announcement followed closely on new figures showing that the NHS is near breaking point. Emergency re-admissions are increasing. More beds are "blocked" by elderly patients who have finished their treatment but have nowhere to go for further rehabilitation before they can return home.
In addition there is growing unrest amongst health professionals who feel they are being constantly blamed for the failings of the NHS.
Blair and Milburn are most likely to get the increased income by raising National Insurance (NI) contributions. A rise from 10% to 11% would raise £3 billion, and a change to the upper earnings limit would raise another billion. This sounds great but it's still way short of what is needed.
As you'd expect Blair has ruled out a rise in the upper income tax bracket. This means, as usual, that the burden will fall upon those less able to afford it, whilst the super rich get off scot free!
If Labour was simply to reverse the tax cuts given to big corporations since they came to power, they could raise far more than expected from NI rises.
Of course Blair would not do anything that upsets big business. No doubt the rich would find ways of dodging any extra tax payments anyway.
All this is more evidence that the capitalist system puts profit before the needs of people. This system has to change before we can be guaranteed a democratically run, properly funded NHS.
The Socialist Party fights for:
- A publicly funded NHS with immediate cash to end the crisis of underfunding and stop cuts and closures.
- An end to health privatisation. Abolish the wasteful private finance initiative (PFI). Scrap the Trusts. Rebuild the NHS as a service free at the point of use. Bring health management and medical services under democratic control.
- An end to the drug companies' profiteering by nationalising them under working-class control and management.
- A socialist programme to eliminate poverty and inequality - the biggest killer and cause of ill-health.
In The Socialist 1 March 2002: