Ex-minister calls for new tax to fund NHS and social care system
A new tax is urgently needed to fund the NHS and social care system, according to a Tory doctor and former health minister.
Dan Poulter said his experience working in hospitals had convinced him that a long-term plan was needed to ensure the health and social care system was properly funded.
He suggested that hiking national insurance could offer a simple way forward to put the health service and care system on a sustainable footing.
Dr Poulter told The Observer: "On the hospital wards I often see people who are medically fit to go home, but who are forced to stay in hospital because of difficulties arranging their social care package or because of a lack of appropriate housing. Good healthcare cannot be delivered without properly funded social care.
"A long-term plan to ensure a properly funded and sustainable health and social care system is urgently required, and I believe a health and care tax - perhaps introduced through raising National Insurance - offers one of the simplest ways forward."
Dr Poulter said he believed there was now "little prospect" of a cap on social care costs now being introduced, despite it being the Government's flagship policy on the issue.
Implementation of the policy had been delayed until 2020, but Dr Poulter said "given that the introduction of a cap was considered unaffordable a year ago, and that the costs of social care continue to increase, there is now little prospect of the cap being introduced at all".
He said his proposal would ensure that a consistent source of income was available for the system.
"L inking tax income with health and care spending would give people the opportunity to see how their money is being spent, and allow a legitimate debate about what is an appropriate level of taxation required to ensure a sustainable funding settlement for our NHS and social care system in the years ahead," he said.
His comments came just days after it was revealed t he NHS is drawing up plans to close services including A&E departments and district hospitals amid a dire funding crisis.
Experts warned there could be a "glut" of hospital services shut down as providers face a £23 billion national funding deficit.
An investigation commissioned by campaign group 38 Degrees uncovered 44 sustainability and transformation plans (STPs) being drawn up across England to meet significant cuts.
The Department of Health said it had protected the NHS by giving it an extra £10 billion and any changes to local services would only go ahead if they were designed by doctors and in the interest of local patients.
Shadow health secretary Diane Abbott said: "Now even a former Tory health minister is admitting the Tories have systematically underfunded the NHS and the system is on the verge of collapse.
"It is clear that the Government has no plan for delivering on its promise to cut social care costs. Social care is disintegrating, with mounting misery for patients and families.
"This puts huge pressure on the NHS, both in terms of the elderly coming into A&E because they can't get care in the community, and people occupying beds unnecessarily at the end of their treatment because there is no social care package.
"The Tories should be fixing the mess they have created and ensuring that the NHS has the money it needs, including looking at expenditure on PFI, agency staff and the inflated drugs bill.
"The Tories have betrayed the British people by failing to fund the NHS properly - and it is patients who are paying the price."