Nothing has taken up more of my time and energy in my seven years as MP than campaigning for local NHS services. The battle to maintain local access to high quality treatment and care is constant. Some of the problems we face relate to the particular circumstances of our local hospital trusts. But I have now concluded that there is a broader problem: the NHS does not have the certainty about future funding that it needs to be able to plan and cope with the rising demands of an ageing population and the rising costs of new medical treatments.
This week I have published a Square Deal on the NHS as part of my new book (www.squaredeal.org.uk). In it I propose converting National Insurance into National Health Insurance and dedicating the revenues raised from this payroll tax to the National Health Service. We should ask self-employed people to pay National Health Insurance at rates closer to that paid by those who are employed. We should also secure contributions to National Health Insurance from people who continue to work after the state pension age, and from the unearned income that some people are lucky enough to receive.
In the next 20 years, we will need to spend a greater proportion of our national income on health and social care. I believe that the British people will be more likely to accept limited tax increases, if they can be certain that the extra money they are paying is going into the NHS and social care and cannot be siphoned off by the Treasury to pay for other priorities.
The NHS has cured me of cancer, not once but twice. On both occasions, I received outstanding care which must have cost tens of thousands of pounds and I didn’t pay a penny. Nobody even mentioned the cost of any of the treatments that I was receiving. If you are seriously ill, knowing that you will get the treatment you need without having to worry about the cost is a source of great comfort at a time of acute stress. The NHS has been my saviour. I will do anything in my power to ensure that its essential promise to the British people – that they will receive high quality healthcare when they need it and not have to pay – is sustained for future generations.