The NHS is badly underfunded at the moment, and this has caused many problems such as the recent “major incident” at Colchester Hospital, where people were told to visit Accident and Emergency only if they had serious or life-threatening conditions. Waiting list times have gone up, and the NHS has generally been in the news a lot recently for the wrong reasons.
It is clear that the NHS needs more money to cope with demand. Essentially this means that more money needs to be raised from taxes. And as I have argued previously, with such inequality in our society, the extra tax should come from the wealthier members of society. With this goal in mind, the Labour party has suggested, among other things, a mansion tax to raise money for the NHS. Obviously a lot needs to be done to fairly tax members of society on their ability to pay, but certainly this would be a good start.
Mental health funding in particular is currently far too low, accounting for just 13% of NHS spending despite accounting for 28% of illness. Mental health problems may not have obvious physical symptoms, but they are no less existent because of this. Cutting corners on mental health costs is in any case a false economy, because if these problems are ignored when they first appear, they can become more serious and end up costing the NHS, and society in general, a lot more in the long run.
Then there is the issue of privatisation. I am in general against the privatisation of essential services and utilities, so it should be no surprise that I am against any privatisation of the NHS. It would result in the fragmentation of the NHS, and obviously money would be siphoned out of the system by profit-driven companies. There’s no reason why the same standard of service can’t be offered if all NHS services are entirely publicly owned. And the ex chief executive of the NHS David Nicholson has argued that private-sector style competition has hurt the NHS.
Concerns have also been raised that any privatisation of the NHS (or indeed other services) could become irreversible if the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) came into effect. This has been disputed but, of course, it can be difficult to know these things for definite given that negotiations on TTIP are being held in secret. In any case, the future of the NHS is not something we should risk for a trade deal with America.