Taxes might have to rise ‘substantially’ in a bid to fund the increased health spending needed to meet future pressure on the NHS, two think-tanks have suggested.
In a report published today (24 May), the Health Foundation and the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said that every household could need to pay an extra £1,200-£2,000 in tax in order to keep the NHS afloat.
The report highlighted factors including a growing older population, a larger number of people suffering from chronic health concerns, and rising pay and drugs bills as key factors behind the need for greater NHS funding.
The report said the increase would need to be phased in gradually over the next 15 years. It would represent between £34bn and £56bn – a GDP growth of 1.6-2.6% by 2033-2034. Household income is forecast to grow by £8,500 in the same period.
Eight years of austerity
The analysis showed that since the NHS was founded in 1948, ‘health spending has risen by an average 3.7% a year in real terms’.
However, spending growth over the past eight years has been slower, with a growth equal to 1.4% a year.
Health Foundation director of research and economics Anita Charlesworth, who co-authored the report, said: ‘After eight years of austerity, the health service will need a sustained injection of funding just to get back on an even keel, let alone to modernise.
‘Maintaining current provision and dealing with the backlog of funding problems will require NHS funding to grow by around 4% a year for the next five years.’
A recent King’s Fund’s analysis of the British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey on public attitudes to NHS funding showed that people have become more supportive of raising taxes to finance the NHS in the last few years.
As many as 61% of the respondents to the survey – conducted between July and October 2017 – were in favour, 21 percentage points up on 2014 findings.
Long-term funding plans
Back in March, Prime Minister Theresa May said she is committed to a long-term funding plan for the NHS but she failed to mention the time frame the plans will cover and if social care will be included, resulting in the NHS Confederation launching a petition to discuss the details in Parliament.
Today’s report added that if the NHS is to meet future pressures, the long-term planning will have to include workforce, as ‘the NHS could need around 179,000 more staff over the next five years if services are to meet demand pressures’.
NHS Confederation chief executive Niall Dickson said: ‘This objective and independent report makes clear that the next 15 years are going to be even more challenging than the last.
‘Unless we tackle the funding issue, and build up the workforce, we will see further strain on NHS finances and services.’