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Letter: My 88-year-old Friend Was Right to Panic – Join Us to Show You Care About the NHS

Published on: 7 Mar, 2024
Updated on: 7 Mar, 2024

From: John Redpath

former R4GV borough councillor

I was approached yesterday by one of the most caring people I have ever come across.  I’ve known Sonya for many years and more recently, during and after the pandemic, when she regularly pops by with food she’s collected from her neighbours for us to take to the food bank.

At 88 years of age, Sonya continues to care, she was of course born before we were lucky enough to have an NHS.

There was panic in her voice when she called me.  “John, is Maddy (my daughter) there, Saturday is National Health Service Day and Guildford is doing nothing”.

Maddy no longer lives with us, and I knew nothing of an NHS Day, but luckily Google was at hand.

Saturday is, in fact, Keep Our NHS Public (KNOP) day I told her, and we only have a few days to arrange anything.

“But we must do something, it’s so important that people show their support for the NHS. Surely we can WhatsApp them?” she said.  Sonya then informed me that she was in Oxford and “Please could I arrange something to show Guildford’s appreciation for our wonderful NHS”.

The nation, and indeed successive governments, pride themselves that the NHS is free at the point of use and available to ‘all’.  At least so it would seem.

National Insurance (NI) was first introduced by Llyod George in 1911 and was put in place to create a safety net for workers, especially the lower-paid.  It literally kept people out of the workhouse by paying for their medical treatment.  It was these NI payments that became the foundation for the funding of the NHS at its inception in 1948.

Following the budget, with a reduction of 2p, some have suggested that NI may be phased out altogether.  If so, the funding for our Health Service will disappear into the grey murkiness of future government budgets. For the record, expenditure on the NHS is currently around £180 billion, yet money raised through NI is around £145 billion, so surely contributions should have gone up today, rather than down?

Unfortunately, for several reasons, not just politics, and funding, our National Health Service is under immense pressure and has been for some time.  Hospitals have huge waiting lists and A&E departments continually fail to meet their targets.  The recent spate of strikes by nurses and doctors only shows how dissatisfied NHS staff have become.

Long waiting times force those who can afford it, or those with private medical insurance, to find treatment in the Private Sector.  In a similar vein, NHS staff who are dissatisfied, disillusioned and underpaid (aka overworked) will doubtless seek jobs in the private sector.  This all means that the private health sector strengthens as the public system unravels and weakens with a service that should be there for everyone gradually disintegrating.

In my opinion, Sonya was right to panic, and this is why we need to make our politicians realise that we do care for and appreciate our fantastic and unique publicly funded NHS.

In this election year, join us outside the Guildhall at 11:00 on Saturday (March 9) to show your appreciation for the NHS and to let our politicians know how important it is to keep it as a public service free at the point of use.

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Responses to Letter: My 88-year-old Friend Was Right to Panic – Join Us to Show You Care About the NHS

  1. Angela Richardson Reply

    March 7, 2024 at 8:55 pm

    Sonya is absolutely right to care about our NHS and it’s great to see John Redpath take up the NHS flag and wave it on her behalf.

    Regarding comments on the recent Budget. The NHS is majority funded through general taxation and National Insurance Contributions only make up a small part of the current NHS budget.

    NICs helps fund other government spending, which was why it was important to find other sources of income to help fund the 4p cut in NICs since the Autumn Statement.

    I trust John will be able reassure Sonya that the Chancellor also increased funding of the NHS by £2.45 billion for next year and the new £3.4 billion for the productivity plan which will help with swifter diagnosis and many other things using technology.

    I asked the Chancellor specifically on Wednesday evening that this productivity and technology funding would be safeguarded for the intended use and he gave me assurances.

    Angela Richardson is the Conservative MP for Guildford

    • S Callanan Reply

      March 8, 2024 at 12:11 pm

      Did I miss something? What are “the other sources of income” which will “help fund the 4p cut in NICs since the Autumn Statement”? Older people being dragged into paying income tax by the endless Sunak and Hunt freeze on personal allowances, perhaps?

  2. Howard Smith Reply

    March 8, 2024 at 10:28 am

    Well done to John (and Sonya of course).

    As John says, it would be lovely to see as many people as possible from all across the town showing support for our NHS on Saturday – for where would we be without it?

    All our family will be there. See you outside the Guildhall.

    Howard Smith, is a Labour borough councillor for Westborough

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