3 min read
Health Secretary Sajid Javid has said he cannot say for sure that the government plan to increase National Insurance will be enough to clear the NHS backlog.
Speaking this morning, Javid said the money raised by the tax hike announced on Tuesday would “massively reduce” the list of people awaiting treatment, which currently stands at over 5 million, but could not guarantee that it would be enough to deal with the whole backlog.
He told Sky News he believed “no responsible Health Secretary can make that kind of guarantee” when asked whether the tax hike would be enough to clear the NHS backlog.
“We have thought carefully about the money that is needed,” the Health Secretary said, “but we have also had to make some assumptions on things which nobody can tell you is actually going to happen.”
He added: “With the pathway of Covid and what happens next, nobody in the world knows.
“We have to make assumptions about, for example, how much testing we will need to do, how much we will spend on vaccines and on PPE.
“We have also had to make assumptions about NHS capacity and how we can increase it. What we have worked out is the NHS will be able to operate at 110% of its normal capacity a year, so it can get through a lot more treatments, checks and scans than before.”
Speaking later on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Javid remained uncertain about how much of the NHS backlog could be cleared.
“I can absolutely guarantee that because of this package we will be able to tackle that waiting list and it will be a lot, low lower than otherwise,” he said.
“What I can’t tell you is exactly how much lower it will be.”
It comes after Boris Johnson in a Downing Street press conference on Tuesday refused to explicitly rule out further tax rises before the next general election, which is due in 2024.
The Prime Minister said “I certainly don’t want any more tax rises” but that he could only give an “emotional commitment” to not not raising any more.
The government yesterday announced that it will give the NHS an extra £5.4bn over the next six months to help the health service respond to the coronavirus pandemic. £1bn of this will go towards tackling the growing backlog of people awaiting treatment.
It is part of a wider plan for health and social care that the government will fund through a manifesto-breaking 1.25% increase to National Insurance, which will eventually appear on workers’ pay cheques as a separate health and social care levy.
The government decision to fund its plans for social care and clearing NHS waiting lists through National Insurance hikes has concerned a number of Conservative MPs, though it is expected to pass through the House Of Commons today with no major Tory rebellion.
However, Andrew Dilnot, who came up with the original recommendations for reforming social care, warned that ministers might have to raise more money to put its plans into action.
“My concern is more for the government, which may find that it needs to raise more money or borrow more in three or four years’ time than it is for the delivery of those social care promises,” he told Times Radio.
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