Well, that didn’t take long. Two days ago, a leaked report revealed that the government was considering using a national insurance tax hike to pay for the NHS backlog and social care. Now it looks as though the money could be diverted elsewhere.
The anticipated increase of at least one per cent on national insurance would transfer an additional £6bn from taxpayers to the Treasury. But today, the Times reports that £1.5bn of that sum may not go to hip replacements or speeding up the timeline for cancer patients to access treatment. Instead it could help fund the three per cent NHS pay raise, which has been promised by health secretary Sajid Javid.
Once again, this shows why hypothecated taxes – taxes introduced to fund a specific area of policy – so rarely work. In spite of the way in which such tax rises are presented, in reality the money isn’t cordoned off. Instead, it is funnelled into the Treasury’s coffers and used for whatever the government prioritises at the time. It increases the government’s overall revenue, under the guise of paying for something specific.
This latest debacle also raises a big question over the priorities of Boris Johnson’s government. If a quarter of the budget from this alleged new tax were to be diverted away from primary care to higher wages for NHS workers, what does that mean for the five million (and counting) people currently on NHS England’s waiting list?
Javid has been speaking in strong terms about the healthcare horrors which will creep up on us soon, including ‘seven million people that did not come forward to the NHS to be helped with things like cancer, with heart disease’ and the tragic deaths that have, and will, result from this.