Hospital Patients Could Be Charged Per Day To Fund NHS, Says New Report
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Experts have criticised proposals from former health service boss, Prof Stephen Smith, who is urging ministers to charge patients £8 per day when staying in hospital to raise money for the NHS.
Smith, who is the former chair of the East Kent acute hospital trust, has set out his ideas in a new book published by thinktank RadixUK, but many fear the proposals would significantly undermine the founding principles of the tax-funded public health service.
He has also suggested that ministers ought to implement fees of between £4 to £8 to help cover the costs of medical equipment, and has proposed that pensioners over 60 start paying for their prescriptions.
Smith said these measures are necessary to help raise funds for an underfunded NHS that is under 'unsustainable' pressure.
“I think the public would be prepared to pay some additional charges,” said Smith, who also claimed means-testing would prevent the poor from being affected unfairly.
Dr John Puntis, the co-chair of the campaign group Keep Our NHS Public, has criticised Smith's proposals, describing them as 'harebrained ideas' and 'zombie policies'.
"Charging people to cover part of the cost of a hospital stay would be a fundamental departure from the founding principles of the NHS and show that the longstanding consensus on a tax-funded public service model of healthcare has been truly abandoned," he said.
Others have voiced similar concerns, with Dr Virginia Hernandez Santiago tweeting: "Outrageous, a very risky line. It'll keep making health inequalities even bigger. Against the principles on which #NHS was based. If this comes, I'm out. Pls keep our #NHS public."
Johnbosco Nwogbo, lead campaigner for public ownership organisation We Own It, told TOTUM: "Our NHS was created on the basis that healthcare should be based on clinical need, not ability to pay. That principle is as vital today as it was when the NHS was founded 74 years ago. Forcing patients to pay for their stay in hospital would be the final nail in the coffin for the NHS' founding principles."
Smith's proposals come shortly after the head of the Royal College of GPs warned that family doctor services are under such strain that patients may have to start paying for them. This would mirror the current process for dental treatment.
Prof Martin Marshall said: “We’ve ended up in a place where there is a very inadequate safety net [dental] service for those who can’t afford to pay and the majority of people do pay for their dentistry care. Could general practice go that way? It could do.”
Puntis argues, however, that the government should instead generate more money for the NHS through capital gains tax, corporation tax and taxing private wealth, financial speculation and tax-dodging.
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