I believe fully in the NHS and its values, and I would like to assure you that the Government is committed to a tax-funded NHS, free at the point of use, wherever and whenever you need it.
I am proud that this Government is providing historic investment in health and our NHS, and is committed to funding our health and public services properly. Following the 2021 Spending Review, NHS England’s day-to-day budget is set to grow by 3.8 per cent on average up to 2024/25, supporting the NHS to tackle the elective backlog, deliver its Long-Term Plan and ensure it has the resources needed to fight COVID-19. Spending on health services will increase from £133 billion at the start of this Parliament, to over £177 billion by the end: an increase of over £44 billion. Despite difficult financial circumstances, NHS investment has increased every year since 2010.
Locally, the Government has committed to providing a new hospital in Preston, be that either a rebuilding of existing facilities or their replacement with a hospital on a new site.
I agree with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care that NHS has responded with distinction during the country’s fight against the virus, caring for over 700,000 people with Covid-19 in hospital in the UK and delivering a vaccination programme. Sadly, as a result of focusing on urgent care, the NHS could not deal with non-urgent care as much as anyone would have liked.
In addition to more than £97 billion allocated for the COVID-19 response across health and social care up to September 2021, I know that the Government is absolutely committed to supporting the NHS recovery from COVID-19.
That is why the Government published a plan on the 8 February for recovering elective care, setting out priorities for the health service in England. This plan will allow the NHS to perform at least 9 million extra tests, checks and procedures by 2025 and around 30 per cent more elective activity each year in three years’ time than it was doing before the pandemic.
By 2025, no one should be waiting more than a year for elective care in the NHS, and waiting times for referral to treatment for cancer care should return to pre-pandemic levels. Within elective care, no one will wait longer than two years by July 2022, and the NHS aims to eliminate waits of over 18 months by April 2023 and of over 65 weeks by March 2024, which equates to 99 per cent of patients waiting less than a year.
This mission has been backed by funding announced last year to support the NHS, with an additional £8 billion available over the next three years through the Health and Social Care Levy, and £2 billion to help reduce waiting times in this financial year. In addition, nearly £6 billion is being put towards capital investment for new beds, equipment and technology.
I warmly welcome new commitments in the Autumn Budget and Spending Review. £2.3 billion will be spent transforming diagnostic services, with at least 100 community diagnostic centres across England benefitting millions of patients who will be able to access earlier diagnostic tests closer to home. £1.5 billion will also deliver new surgical hubs and increased bed capacity to help elective services recover.
To help fund this, the Treasury has taken the difficult but necessary decision to introduce a Health and Social Care Levy. Raising taxes is not a decision ever taken lightly, but it will mean that we can address the challenges facing health and social care in the UK following the coronavirus pandemic.
The HSCL will be effectively introduced from April 2022 when NICs for working age employees, self-employed, and employers will increase by 1.25 percentage points. The Levy will be legislatively separated from 2023 when NICs rates will return to 2021-22 levels. Dividend tax rates will also be increased by 1.25 percentage points to fund the Plan for Health and Social Care.
It is worth noting that that there are some exemptions to the Levy, which is applied at a flat rate of 1.25 per cent. People earning less than the Primary Threshold / Lower Profits Limit in 2021-22 will not pay the Levy, and the Levy will not apply to Class 2 or 3 NICs. This means that the highest 14 per cent of earners will be paying around half the revenues of the Levy, and that no-one earning less than £9,568 will pay a penny.
Unlike Income Tax or VAT, an increase in NICs ensures businesses contribute alongside employees and the self-employed.