Tory MP backs '˜healthcare tax'

LABOUR HAS seized on calls from a former Conservative health minister for a new tax to pay for health and social care as evidence of the Government's failure to properly fund the NHS.

Dan Poulter

Dan Poulter, himself a doctor, argued his experience working in hospitals had convinced him that a long term plan for health and social care was needed.

The Government has promised to increase NHS spending by £10bn a year by 2020, one of the Conservatives’ key pledges at last year’s General Election.

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The increase in spending is part of wider reforms of the NHS which are supposed to free up further funds.

However some experts have questioned whether the efficiency savings can realistically be achieved.

Shadow Health Secretary Diane Abbott said: “Now even a former Tory Health Minister is admitting the Tories have systematically underfunded the NHS and the system is on the verge of collapse.

“It is clear that the Government has no plan for delivering on its promise to cut social care costs. Social care is disintegrating, with mounting misery for patients and families.

“This puts huge pressure on the NHS, both in terms of the elderly coming into A&E because they can’t get care in the community, and people occupying beds unnecessarily at the end of their treatment because there is no social care package.

“The Tories should be fixing the mess they have created and ensuring that the NHS has the money it needs, including looking at expenditure on PFI, agency staff and the inflated drugs bill.

“The Tories have betrayed the British people by failing to fund the NHS properly - and it is patients who are paying the price.”

Dr Poulter was a health minister for three years but stood down after last year’s General Election so he could continue to work part-time in the NHS.

He called for a new source of funding to be part of a wider plan to better connect the work of the NHS and the provision of social care.

Dr Poulter told The Observer: “On the hospital wards I often see people who are medically fit to go home, but who are forced to stay in hospital because of difficulties arranging their social care package or because of a lack of appropriate housing. Good healthcare cannot be delivered without properly funded social care.

“A long-term plan to ensure a properly funded and sustainable health and social care system is urgently required, and I believe a health and care tax - perhaps introduced through raising National Insurance - offers one of the simplest ways forward.”

Yorkshire hospitals spent more than £32m last year looking after people who were well enough to leave but did not have anywhere to go.

Patients were forced to remain in hospital despite being ready to leave on more than 100,000 occasions.

The Department of Health puts the daily cost of looking afer a person well enough to leave hospital at £303.

Dr Poulter’s comments came just days after it was revealed the NHS is drawing up plans to close services including A&E departments and district hospitals amid a dire funding crisis.

Experts warned there could be a “glut” of hospital services shut down as providers face a £23 billion national funding deficit.

An investigation commissioned by campaign group 38 Degrees uncovered 44 ‘sustainability and transformation plans’ being drawn up across England to meet significant cuts.