There should be a dedicated NHS tax to ensure the health service is properly funded, according to a Birmingham MP.
Andrew Mitchell , a former Cabinet Minister and Tory MP for Sutton Coldfield, said the proposal might lead to the overall tax burden increasing.
But it would mean people could see that their money was being spent to provide the health services they want, he said.
He was speaking after Prime Minister Theresa May said long-term funding plan to stop the NHS being hit by budget crises will be put in place this year.
Mr Mitchell, a former Chief Whip, said he supported the creation of a Royal Commission, a form of public inquiry, to develop a long-term solution to NHS funding which had support across political parties and within the health service.
But setting out his own view, he said: “I have come to the conclusion that we need to have a dedicated taxation mechanism, probably a revamped National Insurance, so that there is clarity as to decisions we make about the NHS.”
Asked if this would lead to total tax bills going up, he said: “It might well do, but at least we could have an informed debate about it each time.”
Experts have been calling for a serious debate about how we fund the NHS, not just for years but for decades.
The Government could be about to grasp the nettle. Appearing before the Commons Liaison committee, Theresa May admitted the health service “can’t afford to wait” until a planned review of public spending in 2019.
Instead, she told MPs she wanted changes to be made during this, the NHS's 70th anniversary year.
There is widespread agreement that the NHS is struggling due to a lack of funding.
This was highlighted in a recent report by the Commons Public Accounts Committee, which includes Shabana Mahmood, Labour MP for Birmingham Ladywood. The Committee warned: “The NHS is still very much in survival mode, with budgets unable to keep pace with demand.”
And that’s just the latest in a series of reports and studies from think tanks, groups of MPs, the National Audit Office and other bodies, all coming to a similar conclusion.
But NHS funding hasn’t been cut. It’s actually higher than ever before.
The trouble is that demands on the NHS are also increasing.
Back in 2016, the National Audit Office, the official spending watchdog, warned: “Continued demand for healthcare services means that the pressure on acute trusts will not go away.”
Demands on the NHS are growing faster than its budget is rising. People live longer than we used to, and old people need more health care. The population is increasing. And medical technology gets better - so the NHS now treats conditions which it couldn’t in the past.
The Government announces extra funding for the NHS on a regular basis. This week it’s set out plans to give 40 NHS hospitals and community services £760 million to modernise and transform their buildings.
That includes £300 million for services in Telford and The Wrekin. The money will be used develop an emergency care site and a separate planned care site, with 24-hour urgent care centres at both sites.
There is also £12.3 million for health services in the Black Country.
But announcements like this don’t come close to plugging the funding gap - even though £300 million is a large sum of money.
A cross-party group of 98 MPs has written to Mrs May calling on her to establish a Parliamentary Commission to consider options for funding the NHS.
The letter was signed by a total of MPs including Ian Austin, Labour MP for Dudley North, and Adrian Bailey, Labour MP for West Bromwich West, as well as Mr Mitchell.
Speaking to the Liaison Committee, Mrs May seemed to accept that bold action of some kind is needed.
The health service is facing “serious cost and demand pressures” and “we can’t afford to wait until next Easter”, the PM told MPs.
“I think in this 70th anniversary year of the NHS’s foundation we need an answer on this,” she added.
Asked if more money was going to be put into the service, she replied: “What I want to do is develop a long-term plan for the NHS and then ensure that that is properly resourced.
“By definition we have already committed to putting more money into the NHS over the coming years so, yes, more money will be going in.”
Her comments were welcomed by NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens. He said: “The Prime Minister’s announcement of a funded long-term plan for the NHS this year is very welcome, timely and significant.”