Should we pay more for the NHS?

Surgeons Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption MP Norman Lamb believes people would be happy paying more to support the NHS

Should we pay a little more in taxes for the sake of the NHS?

It's a question increasingly being asked by mainstream politicians, with two of the East's MPs arguing that it's time we face facts and realise that the NHS needs more money.

The Liberal Democrat health spokesman and Norfolk MP Norman Lamb told his party's conference that the service was facing "a real and overwhelming crisis".

Then he and the Suffolk Conservative MP Dan Poulter, a former health minister colleague from the days of the coalition, joined with Labour's Liz Kendall to launch a cross party "honest debate" on the issue.

"Our NHS and care system is struggling to maintain high standards of patient care under current funding plans," said Mr Poulter.

"The evidence is overwhelming that rationing of treatment, longer waiting times and deteriorating care will become increasingly rife if we carry on as we are."

NHS Tax

Mr Lamb favours an "NHS tax", an extra penny on income tax which would be highlighted on our tax bills.

"The uncomfortable truth is that we are falling further behind other countries when it comes to how much we spend on health and care," he said. "My belief is that if people could see that all the money was going to the NHS and social care then they would be prepared to pay a bit more."

He's set up a commission made up of some eminent names in the world of medicine to look into whether this could work. It will report in the new year. The 1p tax could be Lib Dem policy by next year.

This brings back memories of their extra-penny-in-tax-for-education pledge. The party fought the 2001 election on that platform and they believe it helped them gain seats and vote share.

Lib Dem sources tell us they have polled on the issue of an extra penny in tax for health, and it has played well with voters.

It's not clear if Mr Poulter agrees with the idea of increasing taxes. He talks about a "sensible way forward" and "sustainable funding".

But what they all believe is that there is a black hole in NHS finances that it's time we woke up to.