The NHS funding crisis, and why I believe we need to pay an extra penny in Income Tax

This summer, I once again found a member of my family in the care of NHS professionals. Our then 3-year-old son Joseph was left with a badly broken leg following an accident on a trampoline.

After the help he was given, I was left once again with a feeling of complete respect for, and indebtedness to the NHS doctors and nurses that cared for our son. This and my other recent experiences of NHS services though, have sadly also confirmed to me as true, what I’ve read and seen so much about in the media of late, with regards to our NHS itself being in a very bad way. As an organisation it does feel now when you use it, in dire need of a transfusion of funding, and urgently requiring nursing back to health itself.

On this latest visit to hospital, after Joey’s leg was set in a cast, I was advised by a desperately embarrassed nurse that although he really now required a wheelchair, the hospital could no longer afford to supply them, even for children. Instead she was obliged to offer him an obviously unsuitable child’s zimmer frame which he was clearly too young for. It had to be quickly taken away once he fell over, luckily for us he didn’t break his other leg in the process of trying it.

I believe passionately in the NHS, but if honest their latest assistance to our family became just another example in a lengthening list of occasions when we’ve experienced first-hand the results of the cuts to Pediatric NHS services. Four years ago it was decided our eldest son would need an assessment for autism, and I was stunned to hear after referral by our GP, that he would have to join a two year waiting list in our area (the South Hams in South Devon) just for an assessment. At that age, two years is a very long time, and his chances of staying in mainstream education with the correct help could easily have been lost, and this would have had lifelong lasting consequences for him.

I hear often it trumpeted that we have the 5th biggest economy in the world, and yet we are a country that allowed a child to die in a children’s hospital in Manchester last year, while he waited for a routine but lifesaving operation. Well documented and generally accepted too is the very poor service now afforded to those suffering from mental health issues in the UK, again this is mainly due to a lack of resourcing over many decades now.

A good start in addressing this NHS funding crisis could perhaps be made with a single penny rise in income tax which would raise around an addition £5bn a year for the NHS. It’s a policy that has been put forward previously by the Liberal Democrats, and was backed by a group of senior health professionals at the time including Sir David Nicholson, who led NHS England for almost a decade, and the previous heads of the Royal College of General Practitioners and also the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

If funded and structured correctly, I’m sure the NHS could be a model organisation, and again admired and copied around the world. That lofty goal aside, I’m certain that most people would be of a view that Pediatric medicine and services simply have to be funded adequately, as morally we should do anything and everything we can to keep babies and children born in this country in good health.

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