The NHS is loved and cherished by the British people. At one time or another it touches the lives of most of us. It does its best to shelter us from the worst that life throws at us. And yet, shamefully, this magnificent institution has to lurch from one financial crisis to another.
A way must be found to fund it adequately, securely and fairly with the support of the whole country.
My proposal is for a variable top-up levy or tax, payable by everyone who receives an income of any kind, including state benefits, pensions, interest from investments, bonuses etc, and which is devoted specifically to the NHS and nothing else.
Any tax is liable to be unpopular but one designated for the NHS would be less so than undesignated taxes, such as income tax or VAT, which are spent in a variety of ways not always universally supported – such as, for example, Trident or overseas aid.
The proposed levy should be steeply progressive from tiny amounts, even as small as 50p per week from those such as the unemployed or disabled people on benefit, up to very large contributions from the wealthy.
The mega-rich might be required to relinquish up to 90 per cent of their income above perhaps £3 million per year.
In this way the whole country would feel united in the common cause of providing world-class health care for everyone of all ages, all classes and all income groups.
Those making the largest contributions, above a certain level, should be given public recognition for their “forced philanthropy” by being permitted to designate particular charities, or projects of their own choosing.
These donations would be publicly recognised by appropriate naming of the buildings or memorial plaques.
This health levy would go some way to reducing the preposterous level of inequality in our society and perhaps engender some elements of the one-time proposal for the Big Society.
The First and Second World Wars demonstrated that the country could unite and make sacrifices in a common cause. What better cause in peacetime than to properly protect and care for the ill and vulnerable?
Gullane, East Lothian