Labour will pledge to increase NHS spending dramatically if it wins the next election, despite previous failings in the policy of throwing money at the oversized institution.
The Independent reports that Labour leader Ed Miliband and his Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls have not yet decided how to fund this, but are considering various options, including raising National Insurance (NI) contributions for both employers and employees.
If they don’t raise NI, they may instead slow down plans to cut the national deficit, committing to pumping all savings into the health service. They may also choose to increase funding gradually while the deficit is paid off.
These could present political problems for the party, however, as any rise in NI will leave them open to Conservative accusations that they are planning a “tax bombshell”. Any delay in decreasing the deficit will also allow other parties to paint them as fiscally irresponsible.
Labour has recently fallen in the polls, and following the disappointing local and European election results last month, the party is keen to focus on an area where it is traditionally seen as strong.
A Shadow Cabinet source told the Independent: “We are clear the NHS has to be central to Labour’s offer at the next election. What we are working through is exactly how we do that.”
In 2008, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that the NHS was becoming increasingly inefficient, despite the then Labour government pumping in billions of pounds of extra funding. Figures showed that productivity fell by two percent a year between 2001 and 2005. In that same period, the NHS received the biggest funding increase in its history.
The dramatic increase in funding also did not stop scandals such as Mid Staffs, where patients were given such poor care that they were left sitting in their own urine and forced to drink from flower vases to avoid dehydration.