Published: 20/12/2001, Volume III, No. 5786 Page 7

Former health secretary Frank Dobson last week backed the idea of a hypothecated tax for the NHS, but said the real issue was securing more funding from taxation, and allowing staff to get on with their jobs.

Mr Dobson told the Labour Party-affiliated Fabian Society that NHS staff were fed up with reorganisation and there should be fewer performance targets.

He said: 'Contrary to the theories of some outside commentators and higher civil servants, to have fewer special initiatives and to set fewer targets would, in my view, result in more patients being treated better and more quickly.

'The people who do the work in the NHS are fed up to the back teeth with reforms, which they have had for 20-odd years.'

Though making clear that hypothecation was a secondary issue, Mr Dobson said: 'I think a health tax - hypothecation as it is called - would have three major advantages. First of all, it would find more money for the NHS.

Second, it would make clear that the tax taken in goes to the NHS.

Third, it would make clear just how much money needs to go into the NHS, just how much a first-class system costs.'

Fabian Society general secretary Michael Jacobs called for the government to use the national insurance system to earmark tax increases for the NHS. He argued that this could be the first step towards a fully hypothecated system, and said separate funding could allow the separation of the NHS from the rest of government.