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May faces pressure for cross-party talks over NHS future

Published on 26/03/18 at 10:28am

A group of close to 100 MPs have demanded that Theresa May set up a parliamentary commission to plot the long-term future of the NHS.

The question, as it often is with the NHS, revolves around funding, in relation to the pressures that the system is being placed under.

The strongly-worded letter to Theresa May identifies that the “system wide pressures over recent weeks cannot be wholly attributed to ‘flu and the cold snap’. They also reflect more serious underlying issues facing the NHS, public health and social care. These systems are overstretched, poorly integrated and are no longer able to keep pace with rising demand and the cost pressures of new drugs and technologies.”

In response, the demand, backed by 98 MPs, call for a special select committee, comprised of members of both Houses of Parliament.

Its proposed aims would be to determine the scale of demand on the service moving forward to 2034. Beyond this, it would also determine the cost of the service and look at funding options of the service, in order to plan for the service’s long-term future.

The move has been led by Dr Sarah Wollaston, a Conservative MP and former GP, but has been backed by a number of politicians across the political spectrum; the letter was coordinated between the Liberal Democrat’s Norman Lamb, and Labour’s Frank Field.

The government plans to release a green paper on funding for social care in the summer but the letter states that this does not go far enough, instead it states that “There is an urgent need to take a whole system approach, including to prevention, if we are to reduce demand”.

There is now some momentum behind finding an alternative way to fund the NHS, with more open discussions of raising taxes to pay for the service or even a specific ‘NHS tax’ that would be specifically allocated to the health service.

The letter to May makes mention of such a tax and Jeremy Hunt has also tiptoed in this direction with recent comments during interviews. Ultimately, the final decision, if any, on this will not be revealed until the Autumn budget.

Ben Hargreaves

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