A key feature of the privatisation process has been the severe budget cuts to the NHS. These have been labelled as ‘efficiency savings’, but have actually been a freezing of the level of spending since 2010. No allowance has been made for rising costs, such as an increase in the UK population of 4 million people since 2008. The cuts, introduced by New Labour and greatly extended by the Coalition, have led to service reductions, closures, staff shortages, ambulance queues, longer waits, a crisis in General Practice, worse patient experience, more errors and patient harms. This is an example of the way we have been misled by the politicians. Typically the closures are presented not as what they really are, but as ‘reconfigurations’ or ‘changes to service delivery’. But they are part of the plan to shrink the Welfare State, shrink the NHS and liquidate the nation’s land and assets to sell off to the private sector. The NHS will not survive another 5 years of this spending freeze.
Meanwhile the market costs, for example in contract tendering, in private finance repayments, in finance departments exchanging invoices, have escalated. The savings, on the other hand have almost all come from cuts in the value of NHS pay, by the sell-off of assets and from service reductions. Despite this freeze the Treasury has clawed back over £5 billion of the NHS budget so far in the lifetime of this Government as ‘underspend’.
- We call for real terms increases in funding for the NHS of at least 4% per year to match the healthcare inflation rate. This should be achieved in the short term by a 1p rise in the basic rate of income tax. This will raise £4.5 billion per year.
- In the medium to long term the savings from ending the market and halting privatisation will boost the funding to front line care.
- We would aim to increase NHS funding to around 10% of GDP to bring it into line with G7 countries.