The Independent has reported that the Labour Party is examining options of how it could increase funding for the NHS, in the event the party returns to power next year. Among the options examined are the following:
- Ring-fenced rise in NI contributions (as recently proposed by Labour MP Frank Field.) It is believed that this proposal is also favoured by Labour MP Jon Cruddas, who heads the party’s policy review;
- An announcement that Labour will delay the period over which it commits to paying off the deficit in order to fund additional NHS spending; and
- Smaller increases in the NHS budget while the deficit is paid off.
Labour are seemingly aware, however, that they will need to offer some promise of reform to the health service in order to win complete trust on the issue, and that simply increasing funding, as had been the case in the run up to elections in the previous decade, will not be such a golden vote winner in 2015. Commenting on the story, Frank Field stated that “we are not pretending that the NHS can be saved through efficiencies nor that increased funding will not
be accompanied by serious reform.” It is also believed that the Liberal Democrats are considering increasing NHS funding through taxation, with the junior Coalition partner still to make any firm commitments on its manifesto plans for health policy.
Pete from PSI: It is likely that the Labour Party will look to make the health service a central argument in the run up to the next election, given that Labour enjoy a lead on the issue over the Conservatives. In the event that either Labour or the Liberal Democrats looks to tax contributions as a way of increasing NHS funding, it is likely to be targeted by the Conservative Party, who traditionally disagree with such an approach. However, as reported in previous monitoring, Frank Field has been asked to meet with Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to discuss his plans for a rise in NI contributions to help fund the health service, suggesting that the Conservatives may be more open to the idea than would be expected.