Very quietly, the Tory government has started a review on if the NHS should be funded through user insurance and charges instead of tax.
Since 1946, the principle of how the National Health Service (NHS) has been funded as been unchanged. It’s summed up succinctly in clause 4 of its White Paper:
“All the service, or any part of it, is to be available to everyone in England and Wales. The Bill imposes no limitations on availability – e.g. limitations based on financial means, age, sex, employment or vocation, area of residence, or insurance qualification.”
So what do you do if you want to look at the possibility of changing this but you’re in the awkward position of having been voted into government and, well, you kind of forgot to mention anything about it prior to that?
Keep it out of the mainstream media by having it casually announced by a little-known, Lord David Prior, whom in May 2015 was appointed the grandiose title of “Under Secretary of State for NHS Productivity”. You can find the transcript of the ‘National Health Service: Sustainability’ debate here.
If you read the transcript, you will see that Tory peers like Lord Cormack argued in favour of moving away from tax funding, saying:
“All forms of funding must be looked at. We have to have a plurality of funding if we are to have a sustainable NHS. Whether the extra funding comes from compulsory insurances or certain charges matters not, but it has to come.”
There are some more eye-watering remarks from More disappointing were the contributions from Lord Warner (the pro-privatisation Labour peer):
“Our tax-funded, largely free at the point of clinical need NHS is rapidly approaching an existential moment. The voices of dissent and outrage will no doubt be deafening but a wise Government should begin now the process of helping the public engage in a discourse about future funding of the NHS.”
Still, what better place to start an inquiry that nobody voted for than in a House of Lords that nobody has voted for?
I hope the NHS can get its lube on prescription.