Is The NHS A Charity?

April 27, 2020

The onset of the coronavirus in the UK has seen renewed appeals for donations to fund charities affiliated to hospitals and other NHS bodies. Any extra money to fund healthcare in the time of a pandemic is welcome, and efforts made by ordinary workers such as WWII veteran Captain Tom Moore to raise sponsorship should be applauded.

However, it does pose the question of why, when most of us pay tax and national insurance directly from our wages, it’s necessary for workers to dip into their pockets further to give the NHS a fighting chance of coping with the virus? Even before the epidemic hit these shores, many hospitals were already running at or close to capacity.

The answer is the obscene wealth being hoarded by the 1%. It’s estimated that big business and wealthy individuals in the UK dodge £112bn in tax annually – an amount just £3bn less than the total budget for NHS services in England last year!

At the same time, a good number of these tax shirkers are the same companies and their shareholders responsible for charging the NHS through the nose at every opportunity. Last financial year, interest payments on debts owed by NHS trusts under the Private Finance Initiative scheme totalled £2.2bn – nearly five times as much as the amount raised by NHS charities in the same period. In 2017/18, Royal Wolverhampton NHS trust paid out £2m in PFI interest, as against £1m raised by the trust charity.

Not to mention the chronic overcharging by suppliers of everything from drugs to waste disposal further draining money away from healthcare and into the coffers of big business.

Thanks to its role in providing universal healthcare and the dedication of many of its staff, the NHS generates huge amounts of goodwill among the working class in Britain. But we can’t rely on goodwill and charity alone to keep our hospitals running. The corona-crisis shows the need to step up the fight to kick private profiteers out of the NHS, and to make the rich pay for a properly funded health service for all.