How should the NHS be funded to ensure its survival?

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By Sky news

A Sky News debate on the eve of the health service’s 70th birthday will hear different arguments for how to guarantee its future.

If the NHS is to survive, how should it be funded?

That will be the question tonight, when on the eve of the 70th anniversary of the NHS, Sky News hosts a live debate about the system’s future from Guy’s Hospital in central London.

Sean Worth, a former health adviser to David Cameron when he was prime minister, and Sonia Sodha, a policy adviser to Ed Miliband when he was Labour leader, will present two different arguments for how the NHS should be funded.

We give you an outline of the case each of them will make during tonight’s debate.

Sean Worth will argue:

“The NHS is under unbearable pressure, with staffing shortages, financial deficits and over 2,000 operations cancelled every week.

“The service is doing a great job, but is constantly pressured to do more for an ever-growing and ageing population.

“We can keep pouring more money in, but it will never be enough.

“The big change we need is to allow more outside experts in to deliver more NHS services, including from the private sector.

“There is so much extra capacity, innovation and amazing technology there, but only 7% of NHS services are delivered through outside organisations.

“The trade unions’ rage against the private sector delivering NHS services is preposterous – especially as many of their senior NHS members are moonlighting for private firms on the side.

“It should be the service we care about, not who delivers it.

“I want to see the NHS kept free for everyone, but the money we pay it should be allowed to be spent on expanding choice and value from different providers.

“Polling shows people want this change too – especially the poorest who tend to have least choice in the current system.

“We can’t let fat cats in the trade union establishment block the change the NHS needs: we must open it up to private providers.”

Sonia Sodha will argue:

“On its 70th birthday, the NHS faces two big existential challenges.

“Firstly the increasingly long-term and lifestyle-related nature of the conditions it has to treat, and secondly the costs of an ageing population – it costs five times as much to treat someone aged 80 as someone aged 30.

“Anti-statists use these challenges as grist for their privatisation mill, claiming rising cost pressures mean we can’t afford the NHS.

“But what they fail to acknowledge is that these cost pressures aren’t unique to the NHS.

“All ageing societies that eat and drink too much are struggling with the same questions.

“The answer isn’t structural reform or overhauling the principles of the NHS.

“The free-at-the-point of need principle is sound, massively popular, and makes the NHS more, not less, efficient.

“Switching to a social or private insurance system would bring extra costs – just look at the US.

“But there are big challenges in how we transform from a service that’s about fixing the sick to helping us live more healthily, and how we choose to respond to older people’s care.

“Inaction is not an option with financial resources already constrained.

“The NHS is lagging behind internationally on how it treats several common causes of death including cancer.

“Longer lifespans are an amazing scientific achievement, but they come with a price tag.

“If we’re not prepared to pay it, we’ll undermine the universal basis of the NHS.”

Their arguments will be assessed by a panel of Sir David Nicholson, who was chief executive of the NHS – and then NHS England – until 2016; Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, chair of the commons health select committee; Lord Darzi, Labour peer, former Health Minister and one of the world’s leading surgeons; and Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs.

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