- Hunt says the public “want to know that money is actually going into the health and social care system”
- Makes a personal call for a 10-year funding settlement
- Says newspaper report that government is planning a spending announcement in July is “premature”
Health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt has hinted at possible government support for tax rises to fund the NHS, and called for a long-term funding settlement.
Mr Hunt addressed the idea of a dedicated tax for the NHS on ITV’s Peston on Sunday programme.
He said: “If you ask the public…they are very clear they would like to see more money going to the NHS and they would be prepared to see some of their own taxes going into the NHS but they are very clear they want to know that money is actually going into the health and social care system and they want to know the NHS is going to reform and tackle some of the inefficiencies.
“We are a taxpayer funded system so in the end if we are going to get more resources…it will have to come through the tax system.”
The concept of a hypothecated tax has gained some support in Westminster over the past year, but a number of economists, including the Nuffield Trust’s John Appleby and Paul Johnson from the Institute of Fiscal Studies have warned against it. One danger they have highlighted is of NHS funding being squeezed when the tax take falls during economic slowdown or recession.
Asked about a Sunday Times report that the government was preparing to announce a new NHS funding settlement, including £4bn annual growth, in July as a “70th birthday present” to the service, he said: “I think it is premature to be having that kind of speculation now.”
However, he made clear he wanted a long term funding settlement, calling for an end to “the rather crazy way we have been funding the NHS over the last 20 years which basically feast or famine”.
He said in some years very large funding growth had been “wasted” on IT and PFI projects and “contract deals with doctors that haven’t worked out well”.
He conceded since the economic crash, very low funding growth had created “enormous pressure” on the health service. He argued “a more structured settlement” would be a better deal for taxpayers and fairer to NHS staff.
Ministers are continuing to debate funding increases for the NHS and Mr Hunt repeated his personal view that a 10 year deal was needed, which he said was not currently government policy.
He argued such a deal would mean better capability to negotiate with drug companies and invest in IT systems that would make nurses more productive.
He said he “wanted to see that money going in but I want to know every pound is being spent wisely”.
Mr Hunt also revealed plans to increase midwifery training places by 25 per cent and to ensure more continuity of care for pregnant women, who would have the same maternity team throughout their pregnancy.
The government has committed to reducing still birth rates and brain injuries in babies by half by 2020.