SPECIAL REPORT: Chron readers debate whether we should be made to pay a special NHS tax
Health bosses in Northamptonshire need to save Â£230 million over the next five years to balance the books - but most Chron readers feel we should not pay more tax to cover the deficit.
A poll we carried out this week asked whether you would support the plans being mooted for a top-up tax specifically that went straight to eh national health service.
But 54 per cent of the 470 participants said no, with many people citing the UK’s spending on foreign aid, chief executive bonuses and UK health tourists, as the major reason for their answer.
Mostly those that voted no felt the Government needs to spend its money more wisely.
Steve Hall, said: “Spend less on aid that goes broad. Countries that can afford space programs, military expansion programs shouldn’t get aid anyway – spend it on the NHS.”
Sue Wilton suggested the Government could be deliberately under-funding the health service.
She said: “The NHS is being run into the ground, so that when it fails completely, the government will present it as a good example as to privatise it all. Look to the people in power.”
The Northamptonshire Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) was released in December, setting out plans for the local health service over the next five years.
The document revealed Northamptonshire is facing a £40 million year-on-year deficit, meaning the various NHS trusts in the county will need to save a combined £230 million by 2021.
The county also needs to find an extra 283 new hospital beds to meet demand by then, though the only proposals so far amount to a mobile structure in the NGH car park, which will assist with 60 beds.
Plans include moving many specialities such as dermatology, rheumatology and musculoskeletal services to a single county-wide hospital site, with similar possible plans for up to seven other specialist services.
Critics say people could be required to travel long distances to access care rather than going to local sites.
The STP plan also appears to be hiding job losses under a canopy of management jargon. In one section it refers to “joining GP practices,” which in reality could mean closing GP practices.
Meanwhile NGH’s A&E remained on “black alert” over Christmas, meaning other wards had to be used to cope with the influx of emergency patients presenting at the Cliftonville site.
With this in mind, it wasn’t a landslide victory for the no camp among the readers taking part in the poll.
Heart patient Sandra Green said she would be willing to pay for an NHS-only tax.
“Having been ‘left on a trolley’ in A&E for 18 hours with ongoing heart problems because there were no beds, I think we need to do something urgently.
“It may not be our place to contribute more to the NHS, but drastic actions for drastic situations is necessary.
“It could be a member of your family one day.”
In September the Liberal Democrats announced plans to set up an independent panel looking into the possibility of a dedicated NHS and care tax.
When The Guardian asked leader Tim Farron him whether he felt people would be willing to pay an extra penny on top of their tax bill, he said: “Yes, potentially.”
WE SHOULDN'T HAVE TO PAY EXTRA SAYS PUB BOSS:
Publican David Cooper has been unable to work after snapping his wrist bone says series of cancelled operations at Northampton General Hospital - which he says has left him having to foot a £6,000 staff bill.
But the boss of the Royal Oak in Towcester said Brits should not face an increased tax bill to cover the NHS, because he believes too much is being spent sending money oversees.
Mr Cooper broke his wrist after rolling over in bed in November and was initially seen by doctors on November 7, who put his right forearm in a temporary cast.
But after three further cancelled bookings he is still yet to see a specialist. On the last occasions, on January 16, he went to the fracture clinic at 4pm only to be told he had been allocated the wrong doctor - and that his MRI scan had been lost.
An NGH Spokeswoman said the delays are because the hospital is “dealing with unprecedented levels of demand for services,” which is “having an impact on all areas of the hospital.”
But Mr Cooper said: “From my point of view, it’s not about paying more tax, it’s about reallocating the money from foreign aid back to this country.”
YES WE SHOULD PAY MORE - IF THE GOVERNMENT CAN PROVE THEY NEED IT:
Lorry driver Paul Nicholls’ mother was turned away from A&E even though she had a suspected blood clot, because she did not have a GP’s note.
But he said he would be in favour of a dedicated NHS tax, providing the Government could put forward a good case
Mr Nicholls’ 77-year-old mother Marian was turned away from Northampton General Hospital on January 6, despite showing signs of a clot and having waited in A&E for three-and-a-half hours.
In a bid to reduce emergency waiting times the hospital requires a GP’s referral letter before treating such patients.
After his experience Mr Nicholls, 51, said he would contribute to an NHS-only tax pot.
He said: “I would absolutely say we can all afford to pay a bit more.
“Aside from money, the first thing anyone would wish for is good health.
“But I think we need a bit more of a window into how the NHS is spending money.
“If I had a crystal ball and I could see that money is the only problem facing the NHS – I would be the first in the queue to say, what do you need?”