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No magic money tree - more spending on NHS will mean more taxes

January 12, 2018 11:54 AM

Dr Wendy Taylor NHSOur health spokesman Cllr Dr Wendy Taylor (in the red jumper) has received this email:

"We thought you'd like to know that following the Cabinet re-shuffle , Jeremy Hunt remains as Health Secretary and will also have explicit responsibility for social care. So, with a stark winter facing us all, I think we can safely say no immediate change.

"Consequently, we thought it was a good moment for some Stress Management & Resilience, especially after Theresa May's dismissal that the NHS is not in crisis after all and after 5,000+ ambulances waited for more than an hour outside A&Es because "nothing's perfect" The email then went on to offer me a course on Stress Management & Resilience for Healthcare Professionals"

I was certainly tempted to accept, she told Newcastle City Council this week. She went on:

Colleagues - I've worked in the NHS for my entire working life and am extremely proud of what the NHS achieves, particularly in Newcastle- a system that provides care to everyone, without having to ask patients first what they can afford.

But the NHS is under huge pressure. Barely a day goes by without news of immediate problems- service reductions, missed targets, cancelled operations and non urgent outpatient appointments, ambulances queuing at A& E, hospitals unable to admit new patients - and warnings of future failings. At present Newcastle is coping better than many other areas of the country, but 2018 simply cannot be another year where these huge issues are ducked. Last year Dr Taj Hassan, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said :

"The scale of the crisis affecting emergency care systems has reached new heights, as we predicted, mainly due to a lack of investment in both social and acute health care beds, as well as emergency department staffing."

The situation this year is even worse. And just today came news that the Chuchill Hospital in Oxford is having to cut chemotherapy services due to staff shortages, putting at risk patients with cancer.

According to the Government the current problems are simply due to winter pressures and not their fault. They seem not to realise that winter happens every year and that each year those pressures get worse.

Shamefully for this government, our NHS is one of the lowest funded health services compared with other European countries

As Cllr Streather makes clear in her motion, much of what is needed to improve health is related to the conditions in which our residents live, their housing, air quality, leisure services and prevention of ill health, but public health services are also under immense pressure. And pharmacies, which can help reduce pressure on the NHS by offering advice and support are also being starved of funds. And while the Government's supposed commitment to mental health is welcome, we will never achieve genuine equal treatment for those with mental ill health for so long as the whole system is under such financial pressure.

Teresa May's response is not only to keep the failed Secretary of Health in his post, but to name Jeremy Hunt as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. So what does this new title actually mean? Unless the Government is proposing a radical change to social care funding, it looks like mere window dressing The health minister is already responsible for social care and for example it was Lib Dem Health Minister Norman Lamb who took the Care Act through Parliament - introducing a cap on care costs that has since been abandoned by the Conservatives.

Other Tory policies are contributing to the crisis. For example ending bursaries for student nurses last year has led to 23% decrease in applications for courses in nursing and midwifery.

Of course it's easy to criticise the current hapless Government, but what is really needed is a long-term solution to the crisis facing the NHS and social care. The public is sick and tired of the NHS and care system being treated like a political football, so surely it is time for politicians to work together to solve the problems.

We should recognise the importance of confronting the challenge and accept that this transcends narrow party politics. A system designed to meet the needs of the population of this country in the 1940s is in need of renewal. The aim is to find a sustainable solution that will have genuine cross-party support for the future.

Liberal Democrats believe that we have to be honest with the public and admit that if we want to spend more on health, we need to increase taxes. A 1p rise on income tax ring-fenced for health and social care would raise an extra £40m a year for Newcastle and Gateshead CCG and would help fund some of the ambitious plans coming forward from the STP working groups, for example the work on new approaches to preventing ill health being led by local GP Guy Pilkington.

Let's call on the Government to work with all political parties and health and care organisations to ensure we have a sustainable NHS that works for everyone and to consider a ring-fenced increase in income tax as a first step.