James Wild MP: Tough decisions made to support NHS and reform social care
The Conservative MP for West Norfolk Writes at a time of crisis
The initial tag line of this column “writes at a time of crisis” underlines the severity of the worst public health emergency for a century. In the House of Commons this week, we took tough decisions to deal with that impact on the NHS and to reform the broken social care system.
During the pandemic there have been 1,696 Covid admissions to QEH, with half a million Covid-19 patients treated in hospitals nationally. This has inevitably put massive pressure on the NHS and led to worsening wait times. Ninety per cent of people were waiting fewer than 25 weeks before the pandemic compared to 44 weeks now; 5.5 million are waiting for tests, surgery, and routine treatment and this could potentially reach 13 million over the next few years.
Tackling that backlog and helping the NHS to recover must be the priority. The scale of the challenge requires significant additional resources. At the same time, we need to fix the social care system where the pandemic exposed the long-standing problems. For too long, politicians from all parties have ducked the difficult decisions that are needed but we can no longer avoid them.
That’s why this week the Prime Minister announced that a new Health and Social Care Levy to provide £12 billion of additional funding a year. It will be funded by National Insurance Contributions increasing by 1.25 per cent from April 2022 paid by employers, employees and the self-employed – including those working over the state pension age. So that everyone pays their fair share, there is an equivalent increase in dividend tax rates.
It will go to the frontline, support innovation to improve the speed and quality of care, designated surgical facilities, faster GP access to specialists, and use of digital technology. It will help fund nine million more appointments, scans, and operations. The NHS will aim to treat around 30 per cent more elective plans by 2024/5 than pre-Covid.
On social care, individuals and families will be protected against potentially catastrophic care costs. From October 2023, a lifetime cap on personal care costs of £86,000 will be introduced. No-one with assets of less than £20,000 will have to make any contribution from their savings or housing wealth – up from £14,000 today. Anyone with assets between £20,000 and £100,000 will be eligible for means-tested support – four times the current limit, helping many more people.
But fixing social care is not just about money. The system needs urgent reform and proposals will be developed with care users, carers, providers, local authorities, the NHS, and others.
No Conservative government wants to raise taxes. But with a global pandemic and having spent more than £400 billion to support lives and livelihoods it would be irresponsible to fund permanent increases in spending from higher borrowing. Instead, those earning more, pay more – the top 14 per cent of taxpayers will pay around half the revenues, and most small businesses won’t be affected.
This plan must not just help the NHS recover but deliver reform to provide a health and care system fit for the future.