We all know that the NHS is facing serious financial problems.
It was with great interest and some concern that I recently read of the proposals to deal with this growing crisis put forward by Labour MP, Frank Field.
His suggested remedies for what ails the NHS centre around changes to the National Insurance (NI) system, starting with increasing the amount being paid by those still working.
However, being a pensioner, what really caught my eye was Mr Field’s proposal that pensioners should be made to continue paying National Insurance contributions after they start drawing their pension.
His ideas go further and include the proposal that unless a pensioner pays NI contributions he or she will not be entitled to free NHS treatment at the point of delivery and they should be made to pay for it as if receiving private treatment.
Apparently, the reasoning behind such thoughts is that elderly people make greater use of the NHS than younger and fitter folk do and therefore they should be made to cough up cash before getting the health care they need.
Of course, Mr Field’s proposals are controversial because if adopted they would mean the Government jettisoning some of the core principles upon which the NHS was founded in 1948.
Nevertheless, from what I have read, Mr Field has been given a fair hearing by both the Health Secretary and members of the Shadow Cabinet and this tells me that his proposals have not been dismissed out of hand.
It will be interesting to see what appears in the political party manifestos as we approach the General Election next year.
I am but one of millions who, during my days in employment, paid a lot of money in NI contributions without making many claims on the NHS, for which I am very grateful.
However, it is inevitable that as we grow older and parts of our body start to creak, click, dry up, leak or drop off, the times we need health treatment and care will increase.
I am sure that most pensioners share my view that we can draw on the services of the NHS with a clear conscience, having paid handsomely in earlier years for the help of the NHS needed in our twilight years.
Evidently, Frank Field doesn’t see it this way and chooses to brush aside the insurance monies we paid the Government in our working days as being irrelevant when the time comes to start making claims.
Many readers will have experienced the anger and frustration created when a private insurance company, with which we have an insurance contract and to which we have paid our premiums faithfully over many years, then tries to avoid paying out when we need to make a claim.
To my way of thinking, Mr Field’s proposals come close to being a parallel of this.
I accept that the NHS is in serious trouble and radical steps will probably have to be taken to safeguard its future.
A way has to be found of filling the ‘black hole’ that has opened up in the NHS budget. My proposals differ from Mr Field’s.
I urge Mr Cameron and whoever occupies 10 Downing Street after May 2015 to wage war on waste in the NHS, starting with trying to find some way of stemming the loss of billions on failed computer projects.
If there really is a desire to tax the heavy service user in the way suggested by Mr Field’s proposal, doesn’t this open up the debate about charging binge drinkers for the financial burden they place on the NHS, said to be over £20billion a year?