Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell says if he had the job at No.11 he’d unveil his plans this Wednesday to save the National Health Service.
A desperately-needed £5.1billion would go straight into the health service to end the winter crisis.
The money would come from the top five per cent of income earners.
And there would be enough left over to avert cuts in frontline services for the rest of the year.
That, said Mr McDonnell in an exclusive interview, is what Philip Hammond should be doing now. And he could count on Labour’s support if he did it.
The shadow Chancellor added: “Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is being blamed for this crisis. But the root cause is the Chancellor.”
Health bodies The King’s Fund, Nuffield Trust and The Health Foundation all estimated a funding gap of £4billion.
Mr McDonnell said: “Every health expert said that was what was needed.
“And we thought Jeremy Hunt would win that argument in Cabinet and Philip Hammond would have to deliver.”
But in his November Budget the Chancellor stumped up only £1.9billion, leaving the NHS £2.1billion short.
Since then hospitals have been deluged with patients.
In the past eight weeks 100,000 people were stuck for more than 30 minutes in the back of ambulances – double the safe handover time.
A quarter of those languished in hospital car parks for more than an hour as bed occupancy hit 94.9 per cent, 10 per cent higher than the recommended safety level.
Mr McDonnell said: “Families are in distress and NHS staff working longer hours are at their wits’ end. The cause is lack of funding. People realise we need to pay more for our NHS but it has to be done in a fair way.
“We would ask those who earn the most to give a little more.”
In Mr McDonnell’s NHS Emergency Budget 95 per cent of working people would see no change in their taxes.
Beer would not go up, nor would cigarettes. The shadow Chancellor’s NHS Budget would be just that.
A budget solely for the NHS.
It would see those earning more than £123,000 a year paying 10 per cent more income tax – 50p in the pound.
Those on salaries of more than £80,000 would be asked to cough up 45p. Combined together, that would raise £4.7billion a year.
Mr McDonnell would also hike insurance premium tax on private healthcare to 20 per cent to bring it in line with the VAT rate. That would give him £406million and bring the total up to the £5.1billion he needs.
Mr McDonnell said: “Things are so bad the Chancellor must do something immediately. The NHS has never gone through anything like this before. And the flu epidemic has not really hit yet.”
The Shadow Chancellor rejects calls for a specific NHS tax as his plans will provide the funding the health service needs. He has done the figures and over five years a Labour government could pump in an extra £37billion, an average of £7.4billion each year.
There is an expectation that the NHS will muddle through this crisis as it does every year and breathe a sigh of relief when Spring arrives.
But Mr McDonnell warned: “Some people are not going to muddle through because they will die in hospital corridors. It’s absolutely heartless.
The NHS is staggering from crisis to crisis and I don’t know how much more the staff can take of this pressure.
“They’re leaving the health service because they can’t cope any more and that really worries me.
“A large number of wealthy people recognise this and would be proud to pay their taxes to fund the NHS. And we should thank them for it.”
Nigel Nelson Political Editor 20 JAN 2018