Letter: The Budget: NHS and the less well-off pay for past economic mistakes

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Sir: After taking inflation into account, Kenneth Clarke's Budget increased spending on the NHS by 0.9 per cent or pounds 263m, but the estimated health costs of our ageing population and of scientific and technological advances accounts for pounds 438m. So the NHS is pounds 175m worse off after the Budget.

The underfunding of the NHS in the 1980s compared with our EC neighbours amounted to over pounds 40bn. There was nothing in the Budget that even began to address this shortfall. The Government's determination to encourage private health while it runs down the NHS was reflected in the exclusion of private health insurance from the 3 per cent premium it will charge on other forms of insurance.

The 50p VAT compensation package was exactly half what was needed to keep the old warm and healthy. The average household bill for fuel will rise by pounds 1 a week with VAT at 8 per cent, and pounds 2 at 17.5 per cent. With 2,510,441

homes now having electricity meters (a staggering 42 per cent increase since privatisation), I am concerned that there will be self-disconnection on a hitherto unknown scale, which will worsen our already appalling record on winter deaths and place even more demands on our underfunded health service.

Meanwhile the staff working in the NHS can look forward to a different freeze - one on their pay.

Yours faithfully,


MP for Bristol South (Lab)

House of Commons

London, SW1

1 December

The writer is Shadow Minister of Health.