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15.05.17

Senior health leaders back Lib Dem 1p tax rise pledge to boost NHS cash

A string of senior healthcare leaders – including former NHS England chief executive Sir David Nicholson, the former national clinical director for mental health Prof Geraldine Strathdee and influential health commentator Roy Lilley, amongst many others – have backed Liberal Democrat pledges to raise income tax by 1p to generate ringfenced revenue for the NHS.

Although not all signees are supporters of the Lib Dem Party, several health professionals wrote in a letter to the Guardian’s Observer that manifesto commitments to generate more NHS money and develop a long-term funding settlement for health and social care would have “demonstrable benefit” for the system.

“The NHS and social care are in a state of crisis. Hard-working, dedicated staff, who are fighting to provide high quality, compassionate care, are being undermined because these essential services are being woefully underfunded,” they wrote. “As people who have worked for many years in the NHS, social care and related fields, we know the impact this is having on patients, and on staff morale, on a daily basis.

“The government would like us to believe this can be fixed simply by asking services to find savings. But the NHS is already one of the most efficient health systems in the world. Cutbacks will not be enough to fix the deficit – not without harming patient care and causing untold damage to these vital services.”

The human cost of this crisis is “already painfully clear”, the leaders argued, with waiting times on the rise, operations being cancelled and “particularly poor access” for people with mental health issues. They also denounced the growing levels of people unable to leave hospital after treatment because of scarce follow-up care resources, as reported by NHE.

“For these reasons, we strongly welcome the Liberal Democrats’ commitment to raise income tax by 1p, to generate additional, ringfenced revenue for NHS and social care,” they continued.

“We also welcome their manifesto commitments to develop a long-term funding settlement for health and social care. Including bringing together funding into a dedicated, transparent NHS and care tax, establishing an independent body to advise on NHS and care budgets, and convening a cross-party convention on NHS and social care to work with patients, the public and staff, to deliver a sustainable funding settlement for NHS and care services.”

The letter – whose signees also includes past leaders of the RCGP, the Faculty of Public Health, the Royal College of Nursing, the European Public Health Association and the Royal College of Psychiatrists, as well as the former national advisor on IAPT at NHS England – represents a big boost for the Lib Dems, whose policies are being promoted regardless of what party these leaders support.

Although not amongst those writing the letter, Lib Dem’s former care minister Norman Lamb, who has previously written for NHE about mental health and STPs, agreed with the points raised, arguing that “there is a real sense of urgency because the system is close to tipping point”.

Labour’s manifesto, leaked last week, also includes bold promises for the NHS, including scrapping the 1% pay cap and injecting more cash into the system by increasing tax on earnings of more than £80,000.

The party’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn, is also expected to promise at today’s Royal College of Nursing annual conference that he will take a million patients off NHS waiting lists by 2020, as well as spend an extra £37bn over the next Parliament on a “new deal” for the health system, according to national press.

Similarly – and in a continued attempt to rebrand themselves as the party of the working class – the Conservatives are expected to announce fresh plans for new statutory rights to unpaid leave for carers and bereaved patients, as well as protections for workers with mental health issues and safeguards against pensions mismanagement.

Prime minister Theresa May will call her new policies, which include the entitlement to take up to a year of unpaid leave to care for family members, as the “greatest expansion of workers’ rights” by any Tory government.

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