“It’s difficult for people, I know it’s disappointing, it’s frustrating for them and I apologise ”, Theresa May stated recently.
The sight of ambulances stacked up outside A&E is disturbing to say the least. Here in the UK, we have one of the world’s biggest economies, yet we leave people on hospital trolleys for hours to die, with a WW2 veteran recently left for 18 hours on a trolley to die of sepsis.
The Prime Minister blindly apologising or, equally, the opposition gaining political capital from her so-seen folly doesn’t help anyone. It’s not even papering over any cracks – it’s merely an estate agent standing in front of said cracks, sweating profusely and hoping you won’t see until after you sign the lease.
This has been on the horizon for some time but it’s just been shunned by the powers that be, despite mass protest and robust, level-headed argument. The reality of an ageing population and advanced medical treatment has planted an unsustainable, ticking time-bomb under the NHS. The foundations will collapse sooner or later. I don’t feel safe for myself or my family, never mind the near-130,000 homeless children this Christmas.
That time-bomb’s exploded. We don’t need damage control – we need brave, proper, honest solutions. A few million extra quid or endless restructures won’t fix this. I have four difficult but brave solutions. They may never get heard by anyone, they may be in complete opposition to the governing party’s wishes, but they seem like points that I just have to write down.
First of all: I like the BBC. I’ll watch a bit of Strictly now and again. But do I really need to pay £12 a month for my license fee. I’d much rather that money be pumped into the NHS; it would be a serious amount, a real game-changer. It’s hard to enjoy Judge Rinder cha-cha-ing to Duffy when you suspect your Mum’s having a heart attack and the ambulance won’t be here for an hour. The BBC can find money elsewhere – it’s not essential. The NHS is. End the licence fee and introduce a health tax.
Next, with a ring-fenced health tax in place, you could raise contributions by one pence. Just one pence. 1p. A hundredth of a pound. People would understand if it was for a specific health tax – one less copper a month isn’t realistically going to impact upon your life. But it could change somebody else’s.
Thirdly, we need to make some tough choices. Should certain procedures even be available on the NHS? Cosmetic surgery isn’t routinely offered on the NHS, other than in cases where there is a genuine health or psychological need. Let’s judge each case on its own merits and save the space and the money for people who need it the most.
And finally, a controversial one. If we’re raising taxes on one hand, then perhaps we should be looking at some direct charges. £5 to see the doctor. £3 for a meal that doesn’t taste of plastic. Of course, there should be measures to protect and accommodate those who’re unable to pay or are long-term ill, but again, for most people this will be a small price to pay.
And it can work. If you look at somewhere like Sweden, their health service is largely tax-funded, but services are available for a small fee. But there’s a cap – over the course of the year, you pay no more than around £100 for healthcare. Sure, you’d much rather pay nothing, and in the UK the cap might have to be a tad lower – seeing as our minimum wage differs greatly from Sweden’s – but if you saw an active improvement as a direct result of your contributions… it’s worth missing a couple of nights out a year for, right?
It’s time for a mature debate. Whether it includes all or none of these points is irrelevant. Obviously, I’d love for all four off these ideas to be raised, but I gave up my right to significantly sway politics when I stepped down as an MP. Nonetheless, all the parties need to grow up and face reality. The NHS is in A&E and it needs our help to fix it.