Can We Afford the NHS?

During my Sunday morning twitter read (I’m not one for going to get the Sunday papers), this tweet from Harry Smith caught my eye:

Can we afford the NHS? The growing costs and underfunding issues are cause for consternation both in the media and politically. The lack of funding for mental health services and care for the elderly, along with stories about waiting lists and patients being left in corridors due to a lack of beds are broadcast daily. These stories are often produced to suit a particular agenda such as immigration debate and health tourism, austerity measures, or doctors’ contracts.

There doesn’t seem to be a market for comparing the taxes of the super rich with the cost of the NHS. Surely in a world where the media attributes and compares costs on a daily basis, this should have been covered in a plethora of articles.

Finding unbiased resources on wealth and income is relatively straightforward. According to the office for national statistics, in 2014 the top 10% in Britain held 45% of the country’s wealth. A 2016 Credit Suisse report found this figure had slightly increased to 46%, with the top 1% now owning 24% of household wealth.


Source – ONS

This was interesting reading, but it didn’t provide the detailed figures I was looking for. The IFS however, was a mine field of figures and stats, albeit many of them not very user friendly without a statistician on hand.


Source – Institute for Fiscal Studies

That income tax for the top 0.1% doesn’t seem quite right though. Based on our income tax system, someone earning £780,000 should pay £337,000 without any tax breaks. That’s an average of £62,000 per person, or £2.6 billion pounds that is being avoided by the 0.1% in income tax alone, not including offshore havens, corporation tax fiddles or any of the schemes and scams that are used.
What can £2.6 billion pay for in the NHS?

5 new flagship hospitals.

16,000 doctors and 36,000 nurses.

486,000 hip replacements.

I think Harry may be on to something with his tweet. I for one would like to see far more comparisons like this in the media. Next time you read an article about how the NHS is struggling with the cost of health tourism, or junior doctors’ contracts, please spare a thought for the 0.1%.

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