BORIS Johnson insists he has “absolutely no problem” with increasing national insurance for millions of workers as the UK faces a cost-of-living crisis.

The Prime Minister said the 1.25 percentage point rise is “unquestionably the right thing” and shows the Tory government is prepared to take the “big decisions”.

Johnson acknowledged that households are facing tough times as a result of rising inflation and soaring energy bills but insisted the extra funding is needed for the NHS.

The Government has promised to invest £39 billion in health and social care in England over the next three years as a result of the tax increase, which came into effect on Wednesday.

But, in a sign of concerns about the effect on household finances, Chancellor Rishi Sunak raised the threshold at which people start paying national insurance from July, which will limit the impact of the new levy.

Ian Blackford has previously branded the tax hike “another Tory poll tax” on Scottish workers “to pay for English social care”.

Speaking at the New Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, Johnson said: “What we are doing today is unquestionably the right thing for our country, it’s the right thing for the NHS.

“Because we’ve got, here in the UK, we’ve now got backlogs, waiting lists of six million people.

“Everybody across the country knows somebody who is waiting for cancer treatment or some sort of procedure that’s crucial for their health.

“We’ve got to give our doctors and our nurses the wherewithal, the funding, to deal with that.”

He added: “I’ve got absolutely no problem with it. We’ve got to do the difficult things.

“We’ve got to take the big decisions, the right decisions for this country.”

Funding the NHS is “the biggest priority for the country”, he said.

The Conservative Party 2019 election manifesto, which helped Johnson deliver a landslide majority, pledged “not to raise the rates of income tax, national insurance or VAT”.

READ MORE: National Insurance tax increase starts today - what you need to know

But senior ministers have argued that the impact of the coronavirus crisis meant that tax promise to the electorate could no longer be kept.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said it would be “morally wrong” to let “our children pay for our healthcare and our adult social care” by funding investment through increased borrowing.

He told BBC Breakfast: “The choice for us as a country is we either put that money in ourselves now, and if we don’t do it ourselves, we will have to borrow it. And that is mortgaging the future of our children and our grandchildren.”

But Labour chief Keir Starmer told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “The sad reality is that a lot of the money that is gathered through this tax increase today in the end is going to be filling a black hole left by the incompetence of the Government on finance.”

LibDem leader Ed Davey said the rise in national insurance “puts all the burden on working people”.

He told BBC Breakfast: “It doesn’t tax the unearned income of very wealthy people. It doesn’t tax the income of landlords. It puts all the burden on working people – that is wrong.

“Yes, we need more money for the NHS and social care. The Conservatives starved it of money and one reason why the pandemic was so difficult was that the Tories had underfunded the NHS.

“The problem we have at the moment is that the Conservatives are not only taking an unfair approach to funding the NHS, but they are putting this tax rise up just at the wrong moment.”