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It’s Time for a Dedicated NHS Tax

by John Brian Shannon

As we begin to deal with the middle stage of the COVID-19 crisis, it’s time to relook how the UK funds its excellent National Health Service.

On that note, you may recall that I’ve said many times on this website that things ‘evolve’ but they don’t always ‘evolve’ to the best result. While each individual decision over the decades on behalf of the NHS was well-meant and likely the only logical choice at the time, were we to now create the NHS ‘from scratch’ in 2020, it would look much different than the National Health Service we see today.

For example, we might see more, but smaller Hospitals — instead of the fewer, but larger Hospitals built in the 19th and 20th-centuries. Also, NHS Hospitals might be located closer to areas where the highest annual concentrations of injuries occur, complete with NHS-only access to on-ramps and off-ramps to get Ambulances on and off the motorways more quickly. Also, helicopters sitting and ready to fly from the roof of each Hospital, every minute of the year. And more.

Obviously, there are plenty of ideas that should receive fair consideration because continuing to do things the way we’ve always done them isn’t good enough when it comes to the health of every UK citizen, resident and tourist.

To wit; Early on in the Coronavirus timeline it became known that enough Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for NHS workers hadn’t been stockpiled and lives were thereby endangered. Who knows how many were endangered, but enough that the government must ensure it never happens again.

In Germany, the same thing occurred (not enough PPE’s on hand to deal with their COVID-19 crisis) until someone remembered that many years earlier a brilliant person in the German military had decided to stockpile millions of PPE’s — consequently, the German healthcare system had surplus PPE’s, even delivering some to the UK’s NHS. Impressive. Los Deutschland!

Thinking ahead like Germany did costs money. (But it costs more if you don’t think ahead) It also takes political will and perseverance. It speaks to the quality of government delivered or not delivered to the people by the politicians in each decade, and that’s the whole point, isn’t it? Either the politicians are up to the task, or they’re not. If they’re not, let’s hope they become unemployed at the next election.

Now, let’s not lay all that on Boris and his team, after all, he’s only been Prime Minister for 9-months and he’s had some rather large items to deal with… Brexit, a future trading relationship with the EU, his own serous bout with COVID-19, and more recently, a newborn son with his partner Carrie Symonds. Congratulations to Boris and Carrie!

So let’s cut Boris some slack, shall we?

Still, we should add momentum to the idea that we need to fund the NHS properly instead of expecting them to provide the best healthcare in the world without the funding to accomplish the task.


One Tax to Fund Them

It’s time for the UK to add 1% to the existing VAT — and every pound sterling of that 1% should go directly to the NHS without being touched by any level of government. In fact, new legislation should be created to make it illegal for anyone in government (even the Prime Minister or the country’s Head of State) to delay or divert any of that 1% VAT NHS funding with mandatory prison sentences for any person involved in interfering with the 1% VAT NHS revenue stream.

Without healthy citizens and a well-funded NHS the United Kingdom is a much-diminished country, therefore, NHS needs to be well-funded and that funding must remain untouchable by any UK politician.

In practical terms, it means each of the devolved territories and England need to enact their own 1% VAT and direct all the revenue collected within their own jurisdiction to their own NHS organization to form the baseline of their respective NHS funding. (Let’s call the proposed 1% VAT “primary funding” for their respective NHS organization)

“Secondary funding” would be allocated via the respective Northern Ireland, Scotland, Isle of Man, Wales, and England annual budgets and “tertiary funding” can be allocated by the UK government.


Why would the UK government want to provide tertiary NHS funding to each of the five jurisdictions?

In order for the central UK government to have any say in Scotland’s NHS (for example) the UK government would need to provide some funding towards Scotland’s NHS.

To illustrate this further; In Canada, healthcare is the exclusive domain of each province which raise their own revenues from a combination of provincial income tax and provincial sales tax. Consequently, nowhere in Canada must people pay healthcare premiums. Therefore, almost the entire cost of each provincial healthcare system is raised via provincial revenue. But the federal government of Canada also kicks-in additional healthcare funding for the provinces each year (representing about 6.5% of each provincial healthcare budget) to, (a) ensure uniformly high healthcare standards across the country, (b) to ensure that citizens and residents of all provinces are treated without delay if injured while visiting another province, (c) and to maintain an universal healthcare database so that out of province visitors can be treated without delay if they suddenly become ill or sustain injury.

Why would the five jurisdictions want to accept tertiary NHS funding from the UK government?

Remember, primary healthcare funding would come from each territory’s 1% NHS VAT (including England) but it might not be enough to cover the full cost of providing all the healthcare necessary for their own residents. Therefore, secondary funding for each territory’s NHS service would come from a combination of (‘provincial’) income and sales tax, while tertiary funding would be provided to each NHS unit (annually) by the UK central government in a sort of ‘top-up’ modality to meet 100% of the annual costs of each of the five NHS units.

In this way, no monthly or annual healthcare premiums would be paid by individuals or companies and each NHS unit would receive funding from their devolved government with supplementary funding courtesy of the UK government.

Three funding streams, and one stream arrives completely free of government interference. If you’re a healthcare professional or healthcare administrator you’ve got to like that!


Let’s Recap

  • No healthcare premiums for individuals or companies — ever!
  • PRIMARY NHS FUNDING: All the 1% VAT revenue collected in each territory would go directly to their own NHS unit (only) bypassing government control or restrictions, thereby raising significant revenue to fund their own NHS unit.
  • SECONDARY NHS FUNDING: Each territory (Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Isle of Man, England) would levy its own (‘provincial level’) income and sales taxes on their respective residents and use some of that revenue to help fund their own NHS unit.
  • TERTIARY NHS FUNDING: By definition, the UK government collects (‘federal level’) taxes and some of this revenue can be used to ‘top-up’ the budget of each NHS unit. This top-up should never exceed 10% of the funding of any NHS unit and the exact percentage would be negotiated annually between the (‘provincial level’) territories bloc and the UK government.

Finally, a shout-out to today’s NHS heroes, who risk their lives every day to protect us from a killer virus. Thank You! for your professionalism, sacrifice and courage.


A MUST-READ for anyone wanting to understand why the UK should adopt Canada’s excellent healthcare funding model

  • Canada’s Health Care System (Government of Canada website) click here.

What Lessons from the Coronavirus?

by John Brian Shannon

It has been reported by Johns Hopkins Medical Center that more than 100,000 people have died worldwide as a result of the COVID-19 Coronavirus.

Thus it follows that in the post-Coronavirus economy some things might need to change, as it’s doubtful that things will return to what we once considered ‘normal’ — but if we do return to that normal we might set ourselves up for another Coronavirus event that will play havoc with the economy and needlessly harm millions of people.


ONE: Let’s Be Prepared Next Time

It seems obvious that there will be another SARS or MERS health crisis. In fact, the Novel Coronavirus is itself a SARS-type virus named SARS-CoV-2 which journalists have (thankfully) named COVID-19, and it is simply the latest version of a long line of SARS or MERS type viruses that mutate at irregular intervals.

Let’s hope we never face the prospect of two highly infectious viruses at the same time, say, one mutated SARS virus (COVID-20, or COVID-21) and another mutated virus of the MERS family, because healthcare systems would reach full capacity within 7-days and millions of people worldwide would die before ever seeing the inside of a Hospital.

With that prospect in mind, let’s ensure that our politicians work on preparations for the next killer pandemic to the point that we could be in a strong enough position to take on, not one, but two killer pathogens at the same time, because given enough time, that will occur. Eventually.

But for now, let’s just be ready for the next SARS or MERS virus and we can do that by consolidating our best knowledge and practices into official government policy by passing an Emergency Infectious Disease Protocol bill in the House of Commons, soon.

How to Do That?

  1. The UK government should mail a package of 5-individually-wrapped surgical masks to every UK household to hang in the pantry/utility room/in the RV, or wherever appropriate.
    I fully realize that surgical masks provide little protection, but in the case of unwitting carriers of an infectious respiratory virus, etc., they help to protect others from being contaminated by that person’s breath. But even more importantly is that ‘perception’ is everything. When people see other people out and about and wearing surgical masks, it will automatically cause people to remember to maintain proper social distancing!
  2. The UK government mailout that I propose, should include an 8″x10″ plastic laminated card with a pre-punched hole so that every household can use a thumbtack to hang the infectious disease info card (and the package of masks) from a thumbtack or nail in their pantry or utility room. This card should show each type of respiratory protection (surgical, N95, and medical respirator) and the reasons for wearing each type of mask, and when to switch from one type of mask to another:
    A pictogram, followed by an explanation such as; “Surgical Mask; Wear this kind of mask if you’re walking in the park or uncrowded shopping mall.” and “N95 Surgical Mask: Wear this kind of mask if you work in a crowded environment where you can’t maintain proper social distancing OR if you’re a healthcare worker OR if you work in a Senior Citizens long-term care facility.” and “Medical Respirator: Wear this kind of protection if you’re a surgeon, or other operating theatre staff, OR if you work as a pathogen researcher.”
  3. The “8×10” card should show pictograms of each type of mask and the legitimate reasons for wearing each type of mask — and should CLEARLY summarize typical respiratory symptoms and what to do about them, such as: “If you experience any combination of fever, malaise, dry cough or uncontrollable coughing, or weakness/tiredness (or whatever symptoms you feel are appropriate for such an info card) call this toll-free number for instructions and ensure your front door is unlocked in case you can’t make it to the door.” Or words to that effect.
  4. A list of websites where people can re-order any of those respiratory protections online (along with the part number or model number) and have them delivered to their home, to ensure they can maintain (a minimum of 5 masks, for example) in their home, which would be helpful for most people. If the government provides such a headstart for people now and in the future, I believe that for the duration of this COVID-19 crisis and any mutated (say, COVID-20 or COVID-21, or MERS mutation) virus which may be more infectious, or more deadly (or both) UK citizens and residents will be better prepared, better educated, and better able to survive this event and the (almost certainly more dangerous) next mutation.

TWO: ‘Social Distancing’ is Now a Thing

Many people were/are completely asymptomatic — meaning, they had no symptoms at all, or may have felt a bit ‘off’ for a few days — in regards to the COVID-19 virus, however, those people may unwittingly carry on with their normal schedule and interact with dozens of people daily, thereby passing the virus on to everyone they come into close contact with.

If you have “B” type blood, you already know that you don’t catch as many colds or flu as your friends and co-workers. Which is handy for you, but you could pass infectious respiratory disease to everyone you interact with. Please use caution. Your ‘off day’ could become someone else’s major healthcare crisis simply because they don’t have the same built-in defences you have. Thank your parents and be considerate to others. Please.

While in public, we’ll be urged to maintain social distancing, which is difficult to get used to until you do get used to it, and then you’ll never go back to the old informal distancing rules.

Every year, I expect that a call will go out via the media telling people there’s a novel coronavirus or MERS-type virus making the rounds and to take appropriate precautions. And we all know that the best way to avoid such a virus is to lock yourself in your house until the crisis is over — which isn’t a lot of fun. But the second-best way to avoid contracting such an infection is to maintain proper social distancing, which isn’t that difficult. In addition to social distancing, wearing a surgical mask or an N95 mask will help, and even better, if you have the virus, you won’t be passing it along to everyone you come into close contact with. Unless you take it off, of course.

The UK government should create legislation that requires transportation operators to reconfigure their seating arrangements to allow for proper social distancing. In trains and buses, this could take the form of perimeter seating around the entire train car or bus, while in airlines, seating that faces each other might be the way to go. “Look ma, I’m flying backwards!” Seriously though, perimeter seating in airlines, with opposing seats in the centre of the aircraft would maximize passenger safety and still allow a large number of passengers and permit two aisles. On ferries, similar seating arrangements could be made and onboard restaurants and cafeterias should be able to reconfigure their seating area to opposing (and easy clean fabric) seating to maintain social distancing rules. Remember, when you’re eating your prime rib or vegan tortellini you can’t wear a mask, so the seating plan in those areas must consider passenger safety more seriously.

Some sidewalks in the UK are barely wide enough for one person let alone the busyness of the tourist season, therefore, cities and towns across the UK need a complete rethink of their pedestrian areas. In many cities around the world we’re seeing typical four-lane city streets turned into two-lane cobblestone streets that are only open to buses or trams. Allowing taxicabs and limos seems appropriate too, but not passenger cars or motorcycles. By converting a four-lane road into a two-lane road, it allows wider sidewalks for people to maintain the recommended social distancing rules. This can look very attractive and many cities have succeeded in this in recent years.

Working from home four days per week could become the new normal for many office workers and others who can work from home. Imagine a worker assembling 250 car mirrors per day (or 250 car tail lights per day) at a factory; Now, imagine that worker doing the same in their (formerly) two-car garage. It’s the same thing except for the location. The worker gets paid a standard price for each piece they assemble instead of payment by the hour, yet all other employee benefits for that worker would remain the same. FedEx or the automobile manufacturer’s own delivery vans could pick up and deliver the parts from the home worker. Final assembly, of course, would be done at a large factory designed exclusively for ‘just-in-time-delivery’ of the necessary parts.

Shopping online is one way to limit exposure to potentially infected persons, it also frees-up the roadways for transport trucks and delivery vans and ends the daily gridlock that spews billions of tons of pollutants into the air which, as we now find out, breathing those toxins for a few hours every day further weakens our immune system response to infectious disease. Seems obvious in retrospect, doesn’t it?


THREE: Government Policy Must Allow the NHS to ‘Hit the Ground Running’

Boris Johnson’s government has handled this healthcare crisis about as well as any government on the planet.

However, when the next SARS or MERS-type virus hits, the NHS should be fully stocked with every PPE they need, they should have standing arrangements with every available airport hangar or unoccupied office tower or movie theatre, etc., they should have millions of test kits which should be used on each person who enters a Hospital (with or without symptoms) and test kits should be used to test every passenger arriving in the country — before they debark the aircraft, ferry, cruise ship or pleasure craft — and they could be notified via SMS if their test proved positive, allowing them to self-isolate or see a Doctor, as appropriate. This would give the infected person a jump start on their treatment and provide the NHS with almost realtime tracking of infected persons arriving in the UK.

Finally, the NHS needs an entire fleet of state-of-the-art Hospitals that are built to suit the modern NHS. Yesterday’s hospitals, built in the 18th, 19th and 20th-centuries, just aren’t up to scratch. Some of them cost more than £1 million per month to heat let alone pay the lighting bill. Many aren’t fit for purpose, or are located in the worst possible place now that entire cities have sprung up around them over the past 10 or 20 decades. Some NHS facilities are simply too small to serve regular needs let alone having enough capacity to handle a major epidemic. Ten new Hospitals need to be built every year until the NHS reaches 130% capacity so that it can then offer so-called medical tourism and thereby earn valuable foreign cash from its foreign patients. Each new Hospital should be much smaller than the 1950’s era monster-sized facilities. Modern Hospitals need a smaller footprint, they need to be easily accessible, and the UK needs many more locations — more + smaller + energy efficient Hospitals, instead of few + large + energy inefficient + barely fit for purpose Hospitals.

MORE, SMALLER, ENERGY EFFICIENT HOSPITALS are the future.


Captain Tom Moore Raises Millions for the NHS

And to end on a positive note, let’s give a warm shoutout to the UK’s 99-year-old Captain Tom Moore who has raised over £18 million since April 10th for NHS Charities Together, by walking laps in his back yard. Thank you again, Captain Moore. He is 2020’s best example of the spirit of the United Kingdom. Hats off!

You can still donate HERE or SEE HOW MUCH HE’S RAISED SO FAR, if you like!

There’s a petition that already has more than 500,000 names on it to award this great military warrior and NHS hero the George Cross, please consider signing it HERE.

Will Copper Help Prevent the Next Pandemic?

by John Brian Shannon

Copper symbol courtesy of Serge Averbukh

According to experts, if railings and doorknobs were copper-coated, viruses and bacteria would be killed on contact, as copper kills germs almost instantly. Copper image courtesy of Serge Averbukh

It’s a little-known fact that the element copper kills viruses and bacteria upon contact, in less than a minute; It’s less-known that the typical Western diet is lacking in this crucial micronutrient.

Therefore, in the context of the Novel Coronavirus known as (COVID-19) shouldn’t we be manufacturing our subway handholds, turnstiles, railings, door handles and other commonly touched surfaces from this interesting and useful metal? Not to mention that we should eat the recommended daily allowance of this vital nutrient in case it helps to protect us in a general way from killer viruses and bacteria.

I’m not saying that copper is some kind of panacea and that we’ll never catch another cold or virus as long as we live, but you should read what an expert on the topic says here.

However, those studies didn’t include copper cooking utensils, copper thread woven into fabric or copper toilet handles or any other way of using copper to kill germs of all kinds — it only focused on 10% of the most commonly touched surfaces in hospitals.

Imagine a hospital where all handrails, doorknobs, the siderails on hospital beds and countertops/washbasins were made from copper, or even brass, which has a significant amount of copper in it.


Getting Proactive About Making Life Difficult for Viruses and Bacteria in Public Areas

What if we coated everything from countertops, to car door handles, to handrails and more in copper, and it decreased the infection rate by pathogens by ‘only’ 50 per cent? (Including COVID-19)

Think what that would do to lower NHS costs, not to mention saving thousands of lives and reducing trauma for people, businesses, and governments. Seen what Coronavirus is doing to people’s lives, small business, and to society these days?

We’re told that it’s going to get worse before it gets better, although China, after expending Herculean effort seems to have COVID-19 under control. Let’s hope that Western healthcare systems fare the same or better as more information about how to fight this Coronavirus variant comes to light.

At least Prime Minister Boris Johnson is taking it seriously, as are the leaders of the devolved territories of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

In America, President Trump finally got on the bandwagon and is doing more than any Western leader to slow the spread of COVID-19 in his country although some have termed the steps the United States is taking as ‘draconian’ — yet, they’re the same sort of people who would sue the U.S. government for any subsequent illness had he not ordered strong measures to protect Americans. And in Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has taken far-reaching steps to prevent the spread of Coronavirus.

After missing the boat initially, Western politicians have now ramped-up to meet the threat posed by this novel coronavirus.

Of course, it’s too late to install copper coatings on every subway car railing or handhold, turnstile, or ATM, and on every park bench armrest and every public building doorknob.

Or is it? Maybe now, during the present Coronavirus event maintenance workers could be doing the work in a timely fashion!

A great thing about copper is that any metal fixture can be electroplated with copper, or it can be hydrostatically applied (electo-painted) to surfaces by spraying a special copper emulsion onto the surface where it magnetically attaches and cures. Both electroplating and hydrostatic coating methods result in a very strong and permanent bond to the substrate metal. However, these methods result in a copper coating only a few microns thick which means heavily-used surfaces (like subway handrails) might need to be recoated every year or two. Still, both electroplating and hydrostatic coatings are a realistic way to cover metal surfaces with a metal that kills every kind of pathogen almost instantly — whether virus or bacteria.

Similar could be done using either brass (which contains plenty of copper) or silver (which also kills germs of any kind but is more expensive than brass or copper) and gold (which is even better at killing viruses and bacteria, although costly) and none of these metals tarnish as copper does. Therefore, the choice of metal (copper, brass, silver, gold) would depend upon the application. Even automotive steering wheel buttons could be made from copper, brass, silver, or for Rolls Royce owners, gold; Remember, each time you touch one of the buttons, you’re killing the germs on your fingertips.

While this suggestion won’t help much in the present COVID-19 crisis, it could reduce infections in the future that are transmitted by touching contaminated surfaces, especially on public transit, in public areas (think: stairwell railings, park benches, ATM machines, etc.) and in hospitals, senior citizen homes and other areas of high usage.


‘An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure’

One day, governments, healthcare systems, and citizens will finally realize that the old phrase, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is among the most-valuable wisdom ever passed down from your ancestors. So take that advice and run with it for your own good and the good of future generations, by incorporating copper, brass, silver, or gold on commonly touched surfaces, and inside of the now ubiquitous water bottles. Interestingly, if you fill your pure copper water bottle with clean water and leave it overnight in the fridge, you’ll benefit because some tiny amount of the copper will dissolve into the water and you’ll thereby gain a small amount of copper in your diet over a few weeks.

(Caution: Don’t fill your copper water bottle with citrus juice and leave it overnight in the fridge, as you can ingest too much copper because the acid in the citrus will dissolve a small amount of the copper and it will leach into the liquid. Remember, it’s a micronutrient. We don’t get enough of it, but high-ish doses from any source including leachate from copper water bottles full of acidic drinks will make you feel dizzy and tired if you use your copper water bottle improperly over a period of weeks)

And for 24/7 germ-killing action on coins; Why not ensure that all future coins are manufactured with high copper or silver content — high enough to kill germs in seconds? Seems a simple way to prevent the spread of one of the most handled surfaces of all.


Related Articles:

  • The Doctor Who Helped Defeat Smallpox Explains What’s Coming (Wired.com)
  • Copper kills coronavirus. Why aren’t our surfaces covered in it? (FAST COMPANY)