May 17, 2020

The UK is reluctantly looking at a new NHS tax

healthcare services
Catherine Sturman
2 min
National Health tax (Getty Images)
Increased ageing populations, escalating healthcare costs and growing delays in patient care have all led to the very possibility of the implementation...

Increased ageing populations, escalating healthcare costs and growing delays in patient care have all led to the very possibility of the implementation of a new healthcare based tax in the United Kingdom.

A recent report, 'Health and Social Care: Delivering a Secure Funding Future', has stressed the need for a new NHS and social care tax, as well as the need for a new Office for Budget Responsibility for Health. The tax would replace traditional National Insurance Contributions, a scheme devised after the Second World War to support community services.

After facing the worst winter crisis in years, placing significant pressures on acute services, the proposed tax has gained support by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), the Royal College of GPs (RCGP) and the Patients Association. It has also received the backing of a number of politicians, who reluctantly acknowledge that the service is under financial strain, with limited options as to how to resolve the issue without losing the trust of the public.

It has been stated that the NHS is in dire need of funding, with a gap of up to £4bn in 2018-2019, a chasm which is set to widen further through rising demands. Described as “woefully inadequate,” it illustrates how limited funds will lead to the decrease in exceptional patient delivery.

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In a 10-member panel, with feedback from NHS England, RCN and RCGP, Professor Clare Gerada stated that citizens over aged 65 should no longer be exempt from National Insurance Contributions and provide further financial support at this critical stage. "Old age is now between 85 and 95, so old age has significantly moved,” she said.

However, the President of the United States, Donald Trump has also put forward his strong view of the UK’s National Health Service. Upon hearing of current protests surrounding the possible privatisation of the UK's healthcare services, he said:  "The Democrats are pushing for Universal HealthCare while thousands of people are marching in the UK because their U system is going broke and not working. Dems want to greatly raise taxes for really bad and non-personal medical care. No thanks!"

UK health secretary Jeremy Hunt, UK Prime Minister Theresa May and the UK public have all responded to condemn the US leaders claims, where healthcare coverage is only available for those who can afford it. Since coming into office, Trump has attempted to strip Obamacare and the healthcare advantages it grants to low-income families, but has yet to win the respect of the US public in doing so.

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Jun 23, 2021

NHSX releases new data plans, experts call for transparency

3 min
NHSX has published a new strategy for patient data sharing, with experts calling for transparency

Patients in England will get "greater control" over their health and care data according to new proposals set out by the government. 

In a new draft strategy called "Data saves lives: reshaping health and social care with data", Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock says that more effective use of data will deliver better patient-focused care. "This strategy seeks to put people in control of their own data, while supporting the NHS in creating a modernised system fit for the 21st century which puts patients and staff in pole position." 

Under the new plans people will be able to access their medical records from different parts of the health system through different applications, to access test results, medication lists, procedures and care plans. 

The strategy, published by NHSX, the government department that sets policies for the use of technology within the NHS, follows delays to the creation of a central database of patient records amid concerns over data sharing and a lack of transparency, with critics saying that only a small proportion of the public were made aware of the plans and the choice to opt out. 

Kevin Curran,  senior member of The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and Professor of Cybersecurity at the University of Ulster, says that moving health records online raises concerns. "The move to an online app does seem like a natural progression, however there is a difference between having computerised records within our healthcare IT infrastructure and having those records reside on a public facing server. 

"Having records inhouse limits the range and type of access – it's far more difficult for remote hackers" Curran said. "There are techniques that healthcare organisations can use to reduce the risk of future data breaches. One way is to make it ‘opt in’, so patients have the choice to decide whether their medical information is moved to a public facing service so that they can access it. 

"However, those who do not opt in or download the app instead should have their records hosted in a non-public-facing cloud service. This way, if a data breach does occur, those who never used the app, or not wanted to, will not have had their details released." 

The new strategy has been welcomed by some, with an emphasis on the need for transparency.  Adam Steventon, Director of Data Analytics at the Health Foundation, said: "Health data has played a critical role in the last year – from tracking COVID-19 outbreaks and developing treatments, to getting people booked in for their vaccines. It is critical that the use of data is accelerated if the NHS is to tackle the backlog of care and address the massive health challenges facing the country. 

"It is particularly positive that the government has committed to building analytical and data science capability in the NHS and to improving data on social care. To ensure the full potential of data can be realised, the government must ensure transparency on how it will be used and the rights and options people have, as well as engaging with the public and health care professionals to build trust and show people how their data can improve the NHS and save lives." 

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