It seems the public may be coming round to the idea of raising income tax to help plug the gaping £30-billion hole in National Health Service finances, as a recent survey shows growing support for the move. 

In a poll by ComRes, commissioned by health policy and communications group Incisive Health and first reported in the Guardian, nearly half the public (49%) said they would pay at least 1p extra in income tax to support the NHS. 

Taking the responders who didn’t have an opinion either way out of the equation, a healthy 60% said they supported such a move, out of which 35% said they would be prepared to stretch to an extra 2p in income tax.

According to the Guardian, the figures show the highest level of public support since the early 2000s, which, the paper reports King’s Fund chief executive Chris Ham as explaining, is likely because the NHS is highly valued coupled with the growing perception that it is struggling both financially and clinically.

Surprise over public support?

He also notes that politicians “may be surprised” that the public are willing to support a raise in taxes “for specific purposes like the NHS”, and said the survey’s findings are “a wake-up call to politicians to be willing to debate the funding of the NHS and to avoid colluding with each other in saying spending can't be raised until deficit reduction has been completed”.

In a recent blog posted on The King’s Fund website, Nick Pearce, Director of the Institute for Public Policy Research, also notes that the public “may be sceptical about tax increases in general, but is likely to be more supportive of those used to finance the NHS”.

A dedicated NHS tax or lift in National Insurance would “boost NHS revenue while not affecting other departments’ budgets,” he argues, and points out that “a one percentage point increase in one of the National Insurance rates, ring-fenced for the NHS, would raise £4 billion and could be popular”.