Letter : Rationing health care: politicians should not be afraid to let the people decide

Sir: Jack O'Sullivan argues that with regard to the NHS, "Labour is as short as ever on fresh ideas". If only it were to look to its roots, Labour could maintain and improve the best elements of the Government's reforms, and find a means of improving health care without tax increases.

There are two options. One is to increase the funding of the NHS. This will simply not be possible beyond what John Major has already pledged since it will require tax increases.

The other option is to do it outside the NHS through individuals, either off their own backs or through co-operative schemes, devoting a greater share of their income net of tax to private health care. Labour's problem is that it still at heart regards this as somehow morally flawed, and is thus blinded to the possibilities available for NHS-private sector co-operation.

Labour's attitude is bizarre since its 19th-century roots lie in the very self-help welfare tradition of friendly societies and mutuals in which most non-state health care originated.

STEPHEN POLLARD

Head of Research

Social Market Foundation

London SW1

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