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Tuesday, 26 February, 2002, 11:51 GMT
Would you pay more tax for the NHS?
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has signalled his government is ready to raise taxes in April's Budget to pay for an improved NHS.

Mr Blair was responding to the results of the BBC's Your NHS Day poll, which suggested 69% of people want taxes specifically targeted to the NHS.

The prime minister rejected those calls for what are known as "hypothecated" taxes but gave a clear hint that tax increases were likely in the next budget.

He argued the government's programme of increased investment as well as reform would make the NHS "significantly" better in five years time.

Would you be happy to pay more taxes to fund the NHS? Do you think increased investment will improve our healthcare service?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

Let's hope they get it right

Thomas Hughes, UK
I would be prepared to pay more taxes, if the money was spent on patient care. We need more doctors, nurses and hospital beds. Unfortunately in the past vast sums have been pumped into the NHS, only to be soaked up by its vast and multiplying bureaucracy. Labour does not have a very good record in this area and my fear is that we will all end up paying more tax. But the service provided by the NHS will not improve. However if that happens I think Labour will pay the price at the next election. Let's hope they get it right.
Thomas Hughes, UK

Tax rises? What happened to the money this government plundered from the pension funds? What happened to the tax they put on petrol? What are they doing with the money raised from the IT tax (IR35)? How dare he (Blair) tells us that they need to raise taxes to pay for better services - they've been doing that for FIVE years and there's NOTHING to show for it!
Peter, UK

Any increases in NHS spending will just be swallowed up through equipment and drug manufacturers putting up their prices. Wholesale costs of medicines here cost 2 to 3 times that in Europe. Why doesn't Blair do something about that? Nothing to do with donations to the Labour party surely?
Neil, London, England

For progressive taxation as it should be, look to Sweden or Finland. There, people get treated in first class conditions (and so much more quickly) because tax on income is set at a level consistent with an egalitarian, social justice agenda. Raise the top rate of income tax to 80% for those who can easily afford it and then see (within 3 years) an NHS as Bevan intended; free at the point of delivery and the true envy of the world.
Mervyn, Exeter, UK

The British pay much more all in all tax-wise, directly and indirectly, than the rest of Europe. It is not that we need to pay more tax but that the government needs to stop misdirecting and misusing taxpayers' contributions. There is more than enough money to fund the NHS properly provided it is used correctly.

If this means we pay more tax so be it

Julie Grand, USA
Having lived as an ex-pat (I'm British) in Houston Texas for the past year I would support any measure to keep the NHS as efficient as possible; if this means we pay more tax so be it. The American alternative is not an option. Most people are crippled by the cost of health care here and live in fear of losing their income to pay for this. Keep the NHS and give it the funding it requires. We should also review the running of all public services and keep them as that - available to all the public.
Julie Grand, USA

I would not be willing to pay any, let alone pay more in taxes to an organisation so inefficient. People should take control of their lives by being able to select and pay for the medical care they want. End taxation for the NHS entirely but allow people to get a fully refundable tax credit on their income tax form. The cost to the government would probably be less because of providers who would be willing to offer competitive prices to get the business from newly liberated people.
Bill U, USA

Most people will support higher taxes if they believe the money will go to the Health Service. However, higher taxes normally lead to higher wage demands which leads to inflation, higher interest rates etc. This is a vicious circle we could very well do without; the Government needs to tread very carefully.
Graham Tully, Southampton, UK

I am a nurse working in the NHS and I feel really grieved that taxes are to go up to invest in the health service. We have recently been told that there are more managers than beds - I wonder what the ratio of nurses to beds is? I do feel that money needs to be spent on buildings and wages etc, but the NHS is notorious for waste and until that culture is dealt with, in my opinion all the money in the world will never be enough - so I feel our taxes will be wasted in that respect.
Mary Simpson, England

We pay very high taxes but see the benefit to society

Mark Burton, Finland
I am an Englishman living in Helsinki, Finland. Here, we pay very high taxes but see the benefit to society. For example, my wife and I are about to have a baby soon. We have just visited the hospital where we were shown the modern delivery room where we stay until the birth with all mod cons including a very large bath and also the room where we stay for a couple of nights after the birth which I have to say was just like a hotel room. The state also provides 70% of my wife's salary for a year and even I get 3 weeks off with 70% of my salary paid. Child care is then heavily subsidised by the state.
Mark Burton, Finland

No, I think we pay too much tax now. What is National Insurance for? If all the waste and incompetence were taken out of the system there would be no need for a tax rise. If you have a bottomless pocket to pay for something you get inefficiency and irresponsibility.
Lynn Fellows, UK

Raising taxes is a sign of the failure of this current government to manage the public services properly. It is time to think the unthinkable and start to dismantle the NHS in its present form, introduce medical insurance schemes and promote private healthcare as a viable alternative. There should still be provision for the poorest in society to have access to free healthcare but the rest of us should choose the level of cover that we require.
Nick, UK

Of course I'd be willing to pay higher taxes

John, England
I run a small company. Every year I have to prepare a set of company accounts showing how much money we've collected (income) and how much we've spent (outgoings). Why can't the government do this? Perhaps then people would realise that the UK, compared to most other European countries, is a "low tax, low spend" economy. The only way for us to get a health service as good as France's is for us to pay as much for it as the French do. Of course I'd be willing to pay higher taxes.
John, England

NHS, a fantastic idea BUT it doesn't work. No matter how much money is put into the NHS, it is still not going to be enough.
Chloe, R, England

In principle I don't mind paying more taxes to improve such a service. However I've got this feeling that improvement will simply increase demand (e.g. some people who currently go private might opt for NHS treatment) and the whole vicious circle spirals on. We, as a nation, need to fix the amount we are willing to invest in health and then let the professionals provide the service they can within those parameters.
Tim, Colchester, UK

In principle, Iżd be happy to pay more to have a better NHS. What worries me though is that the extra money generated will end up lining the pockets of private companies. These are strengthening their foothold in this sector thanks to Labour's absurd Private Finance Initiative scheme and have already been shown to be more concerned with greater profits than greater patient care.
Kashif N, UK

Don't miss the real point, look at amount spent on health as a proportion of national productivity compared to the rest of the western world and then do the same for defence spending - Interesting eh? Reassign priorities at home rather than being the worlds police man!
Steve, UK

The NHS isn't a bank... the money has gone on curing people.

Leif Jerram, Manchester
People in this country have no idea that they are taxed very lightly. They live with this myth that they are heavily taxed relative to our neighbours, when in fact we are the lowest taxed individuals in Europe. You only get what you pay for - if you want a cheap health service (or transport, school, or police service) then you will get just that. A cheap health service.

And as for the attitude which says, 'I've already paid in loads of money. Where's it all gone?' The NHS isn't a bank... the money has gone on curing people. As long as people keep getting sick, we'll have to keep paying. If that's your definition of a black hole, then yes, the NHS is a black hole. But I'm glad it's there for me, and for people poorer than me who would lose out under a private system.
Leif Jerram, Manchester, England

The concept of the NHS has been lost in the far greater expectation people have of the service. Those who can afford should pay, others should be covered like the USA with insurance that covers reasonable treatment. The very poor should receive treatment free, but restricted in what that treatment should be. Funding will continue to be a problem as medical developments continue to extend life and treatment expectancy. This is fuelled by the Media to the extent we have seen recently with the arguments in the house over one patient. Sections of the British people expect everything to be provided for them, and one day one party will have to bite the bullet and stop it.
Stuart Allan, USA

An increase in taxation is needed to fund the NHS. The Lib Dem party knew that, and campaigned for it years ago. Private medical health insurance should not be taxable. Why should someone pay the extra tax for the new and improved(?) health service, if they already have private medical cover?
Paul McDonough, Wales

The NHS has too much political interference. It is grossly over managed, and not enough credence given to the people who actually do the job. All they need are the guidelines in which to operate and to be allowed the confidence and integrity to perform their own duties. Then Once again we would see the return of a caring dedicated happy and cost effective health system
Charles Desbrow, England

The NHS has to be divided up into manageable chunks

Ian, UK
The fastest rising area of NHS spending? Payouts for malpractice - nearly £1bn in 2001. The answer is not to pump more money into the NHS just to pay its victims! What on earth makes people believe that the government can run Europe's biggest single enterprise? The answer is, it can't. At the very least the NHS has to be divided up into manageable chunks - it's a nonsense having to negotiate with nurses in Newcastle in order to give nurses in London a pay rise. Wake up Britain, the NHS will continue to suck up money as long as you are happy to keep pumping it in. Nothing will improve until it changes its ethos from a supplier- driven one to a consumer-led one. I for one completely reject the notion of putting any more money into it until I can see a change in the way it wants to do business.
Ian, UK

I am very happy to pay more tax as long as it goes directly to the NHS. This is a marvellous institution run by dedicated professionals who should be given every backup to do their job as easily as possible. I do not, however, wish any money to go to another tranche of hospital administrators and "jobsworths" who work within masses of red tape. Get rid of these people, enable excellent pay and conditions and things will gradually improve. Enable trainee nurses to live in good, CHEAP, hospital owned accommodation whilst they are training. Ensure that petty Government meddling is kept to a minimum. The NHS is a wonderful service - don't let the Government destroy it.
Marilyn Jennings, England

After the extremely poor treatment that my girlfriend and I have received in the last year I wouldnżt want to waste any more time or money on the NHS. I urge you all to go private if possible.
Steve Shortman, England

People need to realise that administration is an important part of the NHS. Like any organisation a Hospital Trust has personnel departments, finance departments, Estates and IT departments. These are vital to the running of any hospital. The more medical staff you have the more admin staff you need to support them. I work in an IT department in a large hospital and there is no money for IT projects because clinical considerations always take precedence, and that is the way it should be. However clinicians are very switched on people who want to utilise IT to make their jobs easier and provide better care but there is simply not the money to improve the IT infrastructure that the new NHS is demanding. So yes I would pay more tax !!
Tony Sweet, UK

I'm fed up paying more than half my income for the benefit of others.

Tony Cohen, UK
Here we go again. any excuse for Labour to raise taxes. I already pay more than 70% of my income in one form of tax or another. I also have private medical insurance. I'm fed up paying more than half my income for the benefit of others. Since when is that fair? Let the NHS sink - what will come out of the ruins will be a fitter organisation much better suited to the 2002 era.
Tony Cohen, UK

I believe in public rather than private healthcare and I believe in the NHS and those who work in its trenches. I begrudge a tax increase since I don't believe in the governments managerial capabilities. I cite the mismanagement of transportation and the Dome. Consider the cost of 'spin' publicity and how much it costs to charter an airline to visit foreign dignitaries.
Chris, England

Absolutely I would pay more taxes, if the money was ring fenced for NHS. The taxpayer in this country might complain about taxes going up both directly and indirectly under this government, but that happens under governments of all persuasions. And it is very easy to say that medical services in other countries are better, but other countries spend more per capita on health than the UK or charge patients directly. I believe that the NHS is one of the best things about Britain and it should be free from the cradle to the grave.

I have lived in countries throughout the world, and I have not yet come across a system that can compete with the NHS. So lets protect it: its like several systems in this country (the mail system being an example) you get what you pay for.
Peter, Sarajevo

Add the tax onto things that make people sick in the first place, like cigarettes

M Davis, UK
I think that everybody who can afford it should be charged a minimal sum for their stays in hospital. After all we have to feed ourselves if we are at home, so why can't we pay for our food while in hospital. If you could see results and not so much wastage which sometimes goes on in hospitals, then yes higher taxes would be acceptable. Add the tax onto things that make people sick in the first place, like cigarettes.
M Davis, UK

So where do the current high amounts of NI contributions we pay go to now? We certainly get poor medical service compared to other European countries (France for example) and yet we are one of the most highly taxed countries. It's ludicrous and if taxes go up again, it just will not be worth my while working. I would be better off staying at home looking after my two small children.
Jo S, UK

At last, a government brave enough to say we need more money to fund people's expectations. The NHS has been under-resourced for years. The Labour government of today is not to blame for that. They have got the country's finances in order and are now willing to tackle the problem they inherited. Yes we should pay more, and in return the government must make absolutely sure it's being spent on the right things. Let's make sure front line services get the extra money and not fat cats and managers. Let's cut red tape and trust NHS staff to do their jobs and come up with ideas of how things could be better - and reward them for it financially and with other incentives such as cheaper housing.
Lynn, UK

It's what we should have done years ago, rather than forcing hospitals to cut corners at every opportunity

Rob, UK
Absolutely I'd pay more tax to get a decent health service. It's what we should have done years ago, rather than forcing hospitals to cut corners at every opportunity. First step - increase the pay of hospital doctors and nurses. That would provide the quickest and most dramatic improvement in quality.
Rob, UK

Is everyone missing the point here? Surely the government should be asking our opinion before it raises taxes or this just another example of this government's over confidence in itself to steamroller over everything and expect us to believe that it will be okay if we trust them?
Andrew, England

I would gladly pay more tax to improve the NHS but I will not hand over more money to politicians who have already demonstrated their inability to manage this country's affairs. I don't trust the Labour Party or the Conservative Party to manage a quiet drink in a brewery!
Keith Downer, UK

I think we have got to remember that since the Labour Party have been in office, indirect taxes have risen by billions of pounds with no real improvements in services. To be expected to pay even more taxes either through direct or indirect taxation is unjust. The NHS is a very large institution and perhaps the time is approaching that health services should be paid for by private insurance, but this would need to be reflected in the amount of national insurance that is paid to the state.
Peter Deary, UK

Those of us who have enough should be subsidising those who haven't

Robert, UK
Yes, I want to pay as much as it takes, now while I'm healthy, so that when I am ill I can get the treatment I need without delay - and without paying for hordes of bean counters or fat cat shareholders. I don't believe the NHS should be funded by a special tax - it should all come out of the common pot. And the taxation should depend on ability to pay. Those of us who have enough should be subsidising those who haven't.
Robert, UK

Like all politicians Tony Blair promised not to raise taxes before he was elected but raised them afterwards anyway. I personally wouldn't mind paying more tax if I thought it would improve the service. But I know what the extra money will be spent on - pay rises for the staff, new PCs, unsuccessful IT projects, redecorated offices, fees for management and image consultants. I calculate that when direct and indirect taxation are added that 50 percent of my income goes in tax - if that is not enough to provide a decent health service why assume that raising it to say 55 percent will? The NHS is a financial black hole that will absorb any amount of money it is given without it improving the service. Private care is the only way forward.
Alan, England

I would gladly pay increased taxes to support the NHS. How about a specific NHS tax so that people know exactly where their money is going?
Shirley Tasker, England

The trouble with people in this country is that they demand a decent NHS but don't want to pay for it, which is typical of the something for nothing ethic displayed generally by the British people.
Gary Hawes, UK

No, I would not be happy to pay more tax. I don't even think we are getting value for money now, so why would I pay more to get even less value? If the government wants to seriously reduce NHS waiting lists it should be giving tax relief on private healthcare policies, not taxing them as a benefit.
Sanj, UK

Why can't the government just remove VAT on medical supplies and equipment? That would put a massive amount of money into the NHS without increasing the tax burden of the population which is ridiculously high already.
Andi, UK

The government needs to stop making fat cats out of peoples' taxes

Vicky N, England
No, the government has no qualms about paying its NHS executives hundreds of thousands of pounds each year to walk around with a title and allocate work while whatever is left over is thrown at the feet of doctors and nurses. Maybe if more of the NHS budget was spent on beds, hospital equipment and better pay for doctors and nurses then the problem should slowly resolve. The government needs to stop making fat cats out of peoples' taxes.
Vicky N, England

Why should we pay more for ever-increasing levels of incompetence by the management and meddling bureaucrats? The only place this money will go is into bigger office blocks to house more waste of space administration staff. I hate to say this but if my taxes go up I'll be voting Tory.
Jerry, UK

The government took a penny off income tax last year, why couldn't it have spent more money then and left tax as it was, rather than cutting and then raising taxes as they find they are short? It would be much better for those planning personal finances to have real stability in taxation
James, London, UK

No way. I've already been overtaxed as my company's contracts are deemed to fall under IR35 (the most unfair tax in the book). And as someone who keeps fairly fit and who has not had much cause to use the NHS (and let's face it I'm one of the ones who's likely to pay to go private anyway), I'm sick of being taxed, taxed and taxed again - on income & NI, on my company, on running my car, on petrol and domestic fuel, on insurance premiums, on the essential things I have to buy and generally on living. Whatever next, a tax on breathing? New Labour are just Old Labour in disguise - it's just that the taxes are now hidden away in the hope that most of us don't notice.
Caroline, UK

I wouldn't pay a single penny more for anything to be provided (or should I say not provided) by this lousy government. As far as I'm concerned, more taxes would just be yet more money poured down the drain. The NHS is basically an expensive non-service so why waste any more money on it?
Jo Holmes, Bristol, UK

I am not convinced that paying more money would result in a better service

Colin, UK
My first reaction is to ask what has happened to all the money I have paid into the NHS since I started working 37 years ago. Secondly, I am not convinced that paying more money would result in a better service. The NHS, like all services run by this league table obsessed government, will simply find ways to waste even more money on administration and management, the people who never touch the patient, when it should be finding ways of making the jobs of those who do deal with patients satisfying and enjoyable. We hear enough about nurses' pay but pay cannot be a serious issue for doctors and consultants who also leave the NHS in droves.

I understand that nurses in France earn a similar amount to nurses in Britain. The difference is that their job in France has far less stress and fewer hours attached to it. The people who deal with the patients in the NHS, by and large, are doing their best. It is the need to carry the managerial and government-imposed loads on their backs that is bringing the service to its knees. Until something is done to change the way the NHS is run and managed I would not be prepared to pour any more money into it. I certainly am not prepared to pay one penny for Mr Blair's warm words and empty promises.
Colin, UK

Yes, I'd pay more tax. I would however like to know how it is spent. At the moment, the NHS seems to be a black hole. We need more accountability to ensure that the money is spent on patients, beds, medical and nursing staff and not on admin and managers.
Karen, UK

Yes, I would be happy to pay more tax if it were earmarked for additional funds to improve the NHS. The alternative method to redress the funding gap would be an extension of private health insurance, which impacts more heavily on those with lower incomes and will probably penalise those who have an existing medical condition.
John, England

As a single man, I'm taxed too much as it is. We should be taxing the fat cats who can well afford to pay more.
Pete B, UK

See also:

21 Feb 02 | Health
Blair signals tax rises for NHS

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