Left Wing, Right Wing: Thoughts from the Politics Editor


As winter approaches, Josh Rutland propounds the idea of more radical reform in the NHS

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By Josh Rutland

As Britain embarks on a new political chapter under Prime Minister Liz Truss, there’s one issue which appears to follow every government around. That is, of course, the NHS. When winter approaches we hear the inevitable stories of huge delays, backlogs and in some cases ‘black alerts’ at NHS hospitals across the country.

Most commentators point to a lack of funding, almost as an automatic explanation for the pressures, yet there’s far more to the situation which must be addressed before signing off blank cheques to get us through the winter.

Indeed Britain’s health spending has matched that of similarly wealthy countries, totalling 11.9 percent of GDP in 2021, albeit with fewer resourses for preventive measures. In spite of comparable funding, the NHS suffers from annual crises, with a £5.4 billion cash injection last winter only keeping the service afloat.

The new Prime Minister has promised an array of tax cuts, including reversing the 1.25 per cent rise in National Insurance and scrapping the Health and Social Care Levy. This comes amid her £150 billion plan to freeze energy bills, funded largely through borrowing, which appears to leave little left for a winter cash injection this year.

Waiting lists are only going in one direction, predicted to top 9.2 million by March 2024. Most British people are rightfully proud of the NHS yet it has become increasingly apparent that tweaking the NHS to overcome its flaws will not resolve more permanent issues. One could point to Australia where private involvement smooths out patient demand, but a growing (not to mention ageing) population makes the spiralling costs of the NHS impossible to meet if Liz Truss pursues her low-tax strategy. We mustn’t see the NHS as too sacred an institution to even debate.