NHS: It’s time for mature debate

editorial image

I am currently recovering from a stroke, which I suffered towards the end of January, and I wish to put on record my deep appreciation of the services of the NHS from which I have benefited from that day to this.

An off-duty paramedic rescued me from the forecourt of a petrol filling station in Alnwick.

His on-duty colleagues whisked me away to the first of four hospitals, Cramlington, followed by the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle, then Wansbeck, and finally Alnwick Infirmary.

Throughout my ‘tour’ of the region’s hospitals I was treated with great care, courtesy and consideration.

Needless to say, the medical expertise that was exercised was of the highest order.

There are those who maintain that the NHS is expensive to run. Well, of course it’s expensive.

It is a non-profit making, free at the point of delivery, top flight health service, available to all UK citizens.

It is thereby bound to be expensive.

So, how might it best be funded?

Having had a number of conversations with fellow patients, hospital staff and visitors, I am of the opinion that the way forward is not via funding cuts or creeping privatisation, but by asking the British public: ‘Do you want the National Health Service to continue to exist? Yes or no?’

If, as I suspect, the overwhelming answer is ‘yes’, the next question is how best to fund it?

Setting aside political bias and dogma, I suggest the answer is a tiny increase in personal taxation, let us say 1p in the pound.

Most people wouldn’t notice such a minute increase and yet it would raise something in the region of £4.5billion this year and £4.6billion in the year 2018-19 (official HM Treasury estimates).

Such a sum wouldn’t cure the financial ills of the NHS, but it would help year on year.

Any extra funding would also have to include social care.

There is no point healing people if there is nowhere for them to be looked after on leaving hospital.

So may we be adult and ‘grown up’ by ceasing to treat the NHS as a political football and have a mature debate as to how it is best funded.

A very grateful

Canon Tony Chesterman,