Could ‘NHS tax’ fill Yorkshire’s £2bn funding gap?

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Yorkshire is facing a £2bn NHS deficit by the end of the decade unless the health service is given extra money or makes dramatic savings, according to a new report.

The IPPR thinktank warns the health service’s existing efficiency plans are not enough to fill the financial gap and proposes an NHS tax in a new report published today.

Its analysis of the plans drawn up for the NHS between now and 2021 reveals a £24bn defecit, including £2bn in Yorkshire.

The proposals, officially known as strategy and transformation plans (STPs) include major changes to local health services which are supposed to reduce that deficit but IPPR insists they will not be enough to close the gap.

Harry Quilter-Pinner, IPPR research fellow on public services, said: “The debate on STPs has become dangerously polarised between campaigners who claim they are Secret Tory Plans for cutting the NHS and the government who says they are local initiatives that have nothing to do with them.

“The truth is that the Health Service will have to radically change to deal with spiralling demand from an ageing population and expensive new drugs and technologies. So STPs are vital in keeping the NHS up to date and free at the point of use.

“But on their own they won’t be enough. Put simply the NHS needs more money. IPPR believes we all need to invest a little to change the NHS to make it fit for the future.

“The Prime Minister and Health Secretary will also need to step up and lead NHS change. Hard decisions will inevitably need to be made and without better political leadership this process is doomed to fail.”

The IPPR analysis suggests that without reforms, the NHS in West Yorkshire will face a £1bn deficit.

Across the Humber and Vale area - including North Yorkshire - the figure is £420m while in South Yorkshire it is £570m.

The funding gap amounts to between £300 and £400 per person.

Proposals in the Yorkshire STPs to save money include reducing the number of stroke units and the number of places where children’s operations take place.

The NHS tax would be ringfenced money for the health service raised through an increase in national insurance, IPPR suggests.

Labour Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “Theresa May just doesn’t seem to understand that service change at the scale suggested by the STP process requires investment up front to make it work.

“The provision of local health services should be based on need, clinical evidence and enjoy support of local people. Trying to push through changes simply based on filling a £20 billion pound plus black hole means selling patients short and undermining the work of local health leaders.

“Labour is calling for a sustainable funding settlement for health and social care to be brought forward in the March Budget. It is vital that changes to local health care arrangements are driven by the quality of patient care.”

In a separate move, doctors have said they are “constantly” failing to meet patient expectations and are left “exasperated” because they are unable to provide excellent care.

Their letter, published in the British Medical Journal, calls on the Government to increase healthcare spending to at least 10 per cent of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) in order to meet demand.