Norman Lamb slams West Kent NHS Operations Ban

The NHS in West Kent (one of the most prosperous parts of the South East) has banned operations until April due to a funding crisis.

Norman Lamb

Norman Lamb, the former Liberal Democrat Health Minister, has responded after West Kent banned all non-urgent operations until April.

“Patients who are in severe pain should not have to wait for a new financial year to have an operation. This is not what our NHS is about. What we need instead is a new financial plan from the government to deliver the funding the health service needs.

“This is the longest ban in NHS history on patients undergoing surgery to relieve pain.

“There is a major crisis in funding. This is why I led a cross-party delegation to see Mrs May this week to try to get a cross party process under way. The NHS is too important to use as a political football.

“The Liberal Democrats will be straight with the British public. We should consider raising taxes to give the public the NHS and care services they are right to expect.”


* Antony Hook was #2 on the South East European list in 2014, is the English Party's representative on the Federal Executive and produces this sites EU Referendum Roundup.

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  • The problem is we live in a have cake and eat it society. Getting the message through that you can’t have a low tax society and adequate public services will be difficult but it is a message we must sell.

  • nigel hunter 4th Feb '17 - 1:25pm

    I agree with Frankie and this message should go out on Facebook etc People seem to want everything for nothing or as little as possible. The disaster of leaving the EU club looks like we have a bill to pay leaving less money with no certainty of what follows There does come a bottom line where a choice has to be made. Are we beginning to reach that point? Will people pay for an NHS for all?

  • Kay Kirkham 4th Feb '17 - 1:31pm

    We must commit to raising income tax which is the fairest way to increase the NHS budget. I have just had a knee replacement as fortunately I don’the live in Kent!

  • Nicholas Cunningham 4th Feb '17 - 2:33pm

    At this moment of time, sad to say many do believe they can have their cake and eat it. Down the line though the truth will be exposed. Read a very interesting article on this issue concerning a low tax economy the likes’ of which May and others have indicated they would put into place. As you stated there are clear choices to be made in such circumstances, tax revenue is needed to pay for the service and if May does pursue that path the choices will be stark and very unpalatable for the many who will see their services decline even further than they are today. The tax pot would have shrunk, unless of course you buy into economic’s of Davis and co, everything will just hunky-dory. As Norman Lamb points out, even today, if one is honest, actually there is a need to raise taxes to pay for the resources like that of the NHS, which is at breaking point, tomorrow that need will only be greater.

  • I agree with everyone so far. Too many people seem to expect top services, but are indignant at the mention of it needing more funding. They’d much rather blame “waste”, assumed bureaucracy, and of course foreigners, than admit that the NI they’ve been paying during their working life wasn’t enough after all.

    It feels as if there has been a shift in thinking since the bad headlines over the last couple of months, as people realise that it’s all very well complaining about having already paid enough, but that doesn’t mean that services will be available when they or a loved one needs them.

    It is essential that the message gets out that today’s health service costs more than before, because we are living longer, and that the treatments that keep them and their granny alive, and sustain them after the life saving treatment, do not come cheaply. ?We cannot allow the debate to be dominated by people who want to blame health tourism or lazy pen-pushers.

  • The problem isn’t people thinking they can have their cake and eat it. The cause is mostly Conservative governments reducing tax and then insisting that it will have no effect. Of course people on low and average incomes welcome tax cuts, but that’s because they are not that wealthy in the first place and it’s presented to them as an act of benevolence. The main problem is wage suppression which is aided by dismantling things like unions and making it the job of government to set things like a minimum wage. Mass immigration of low skilled non tax paying labour doesn’t help either.

  • Peter Watson 4th Feb '17 - 4:45pm

    @Kay Kirkham “We must commit to raising income tax”
    With the party’s MPs in coalition having raised the tax threshold at the bottom and cut the rate of income tax at the top (and helped bring in a tax allowance for married couples), are you recommending a U-turn or squeezing the middle further?
    I agree entirely with the comments and concerns about our “have your cake and eat it” society, but sadly the Lib Dems seem to have embraced that approach in recent years.

  • Peter,
    Hard to disagree but I think the party has been inoculated against Tories bearing gifts; the last time the disease nearly killed them. There is a change in mood, I think as reality bites more and more people realise you can’t have something for nothing; real services and a functioning society cost.

  • @frankie and @Peter
    The Lib Dems would find it a lot easier to convince the people of the benefits of a little more tax and spend had they not spent the last 8 or 9 years supporting the Tory narrative by arguing that Labour had spent too much.

    Besides, income tax is – as ever – a red herring. Yes, the coalition cut income tax – but they increased other taxes.

  • Britain is going to need higher taxes to care for an aging population. That’s abundantly clear. But simply demanding money in the most obvious possible way is political suicide – look at the Surrey council tax referendum – and it’s not how you’d address any other budget problem.

    Why do we have a triple lock on pensions when we can’t provide health and social care for the same elderly people? Why should the richest pensioners get untaxed winter fuel payments and free TV licenses? Is there no structural waste in the NHS bureaucracy? Could better preventative and social care free up money for the NHS? Do we need to hypothecate taxes for the NHS to secure public support?

    I think the public are ready to pay if they think it’ll help the NHS. But they’ll want to know the money is being spent well and that the sacrifice is borne fairly by all. The challenge is to find a proposal that captures all of that. I’d start by proposing a single lock on pensions – they should rise with earnings – with all of the savings for the NHS and social care.

  • RBH: I suspect the days of ‘rich pensioners’ may not last a great deal longer.
    I have elderly relatives who worked hard all their lives, saved hard, lived prudently, and are now comfortably retired (but hardly rich). Who feel they deserve their free TV licence etc in recompense. ‘Why should people who were financially irresponsible be rewarded now?’ Etc.
    However, that generation could buy a home and raise a family on one modest salary.
    In recent years, final salary pensions have been axed, or run out of funds. People struggle on two salaries to make ends meet, with nothing to spare for the future, so unless you’re in the public sector, it will be state pension plus very little else to live on.
    And downsizing home is only an answer if you live somewhere with high property prices and ‘cheaper’ doesn’t mean ‘grotty area’.

    There have been cases lately where PCCs have asked the public ‘will you pay more in your precept for policing?’ and got the answer ‘yes’.
    I don’t know the Surrey council case, but people tend not to feel ‘the council’ benefits them personally in the same way.
    I think if asked to pay 1p more for the NHS, it could be acceptable.

  • Glenn, I think you underestimate people when you presume that people on low and average wages welcome tax cuts. As someone on an average wage, I’d much rather have a modest tax increase than to allow the NHS to fail to provide for those who need it. It’s those on lowest incomes that suffer most from the cuts.

    It’s a political slight of hand to convince the poorest that a tax reduction for all is a benefit for the poor. In reality, it’s the wealthy who appreciate a tax cut the most. They save the most, and are the ones most able to buy their way out of waiting list. Only the very wealthy can afford to seek private treatment for a serious illness, but many people on a middle-income will gladly pay to see a private physiotherapist when they have a bad back, than go through the hoop jumping and inevitable wait, that comes with the NHS route. That’s assuming that you manage to convince your GP that your case justifies a physio.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 5th Feb '17 - 10:54am

    Higher taxes are not necessarily the only option. When the government chose to renew Trident, it seemed that 31 billion pounds were mysteriously available. If only this 31 billion pounds could have been made available for the NHS instead. I’m sorry if this sounds too much like a certain slogan on a bus!

  • Peter Watson 5th Feb '17 - 11:18am

    @Simon Shaw “there’s a danger we start believing the Labour Party’s lies over the “rate of income tax at the top”.”
    I did not mention Labour or even the merits or otherwise of the 50% tax rate (I agree that Labour introduced it too late to pretend it is some sort of tenet of faith. i also feel that 50% is too high: not so much for economic reasons, I’m just uncomfortable with government taking half of the income above a certain level and 49% sounds better!).

    But the coalition inherited a 50% tax rate for the highest earners and Lib Dems justified reducing this to 45%. At the same time Lib Dems raised the income tax threshold. Along with allowing the married couple’s tax allowance and increasing VAT the party seemed to be highlighting its position as a party of lower income tax (though tuition fees muddies the water here!).

    Increasing income tax to fund the NHS, however worthy, would be something of a reversal of previous statements and actions (including criticisms of Labour for spending too much). Such a policy would have to be presented carefully to avoid looking inconsistent and unprincipled.

    I hope that the party avoids the temptation to promise unicorns for everybody that will be paid for by cancelling Brexit (a bit like the Brexiters £350 milion/week for the NHS), and instead has a sensible discussion about how extra funding for the NHS can be raised. I also hope that Lib Dems do not simply call for money without addressing divisions within their own party over the extent to which insurance schemes, private suppliers, a free market approach, etc. should be involved in spending that money.

  • The problem with the Trident money is that comes from ring-fenced Defence spending, and the cost of Trident is to be spread over a number of years. However, I do agree that there is a lot to be said for what we prioritise, and without a doubt, the numbers quoted for renewing Trident are eye-watering, regardless of how you spread it out. Sadly, IMO, certain media outlets are encouraging their readers to want to reduce spending on international development, using the NHS as the excuse.

    Wherever the money comes from, it needs to be accepted that the UK currently spends less per person on the NHS than almost any other developed country. The NHS, for all its flaws, already is a very efficient means of delivering health services. Improving efficiency shouldn’t be ruled out, but it shouldn’t be used to distract from the need for additional investment.

  • Fiona,
    If you actually read my post, you’ll see that I was saying pretty much the same thing as you.

  • Peter Watson,

    An unrestricted free market approach has been tried before, it was called the Victorian era. it led to the rise of fascism and communism with all the ills that led from that. The only thing that saved the USA and the UK was the rise of policies such as Roosevelt’s New Deal. Try unrestricted free market-ism again and then express surprise at the rise of the right and the left, but only if you’ve forgotten what history has taught us.

  • Philip Rolle 5th Feb '17 - 3:05pm

    The NHS is unsustainable without significant funding. A penny on income tax is nowhere near enough. Far better to introduce a third deduction from earnings, a social insurance premium. This would cover all health care and some social care costs, in return for which people would receive a legal right to the appropriate standard of treatment or care.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 5th Feb '17 - 6:45pm

    Yes to more money , very significant money, but reform, real reform, not the sort of make it up as you go along we have had for decades, is needed.

    The national health service is not national, but for many it is not personal, instead.

    It is like the girl with the curl.

    The very very good bits need to be duplicated , the bad or horrid dealt with.

    Until we recognise what was once great , possibly was not as great ,as we thought, or it could have been, but at its best does a fine thing by our people and this country, but not demonise or eulogise it, we get not very far .

    Money, and flexibility and unity and pluarality. All of these and more , please!

  • Catherine Royce 5th Feb '17 - 8:46pm

    A certain sense of deja vu, the last time this happened was I think in the winter of ’87-’88 when Margaret Thatcher was in power. If I recall correctly, there was also a staffing freeze and a ban on employing locums then. The Tories very nearly crashed the NHS then and they are doing the same now, just as Lansley intended, and just in time for a juicy trade deal with the US to cherry pick the parts that can be made to pay.

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