Is NHS really free for all?23rd April 2007
A group of doctors is warning that top-up fees for medical care will soon become a regular feature of NHS treatment in Britain.
Doctors for Reform says more patients will have to pay to have their care topped up privately due to NHS budget cuts and long waiting lists. The group says the idea that health care is free in this country is now a "political mirage" and has written to Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt calling for talks on the future of NHS funding. Central to their argument is that the NHS is still promoted by ministers as a completely free service for all but that many patients are already paying private top-up fees to avoid lengthy waiting times and the postcode lottery.
Doctors for Reform also argues that the cost of private treatments is falling due to increased competition and better technology which will make ‘topping-up’ a more attractive option for many patients. The group wants the health secretary to confirm whether the NHS will continue to be free for all in the future and has asked her to outline how access to healthcare can be made fairer.
The Department of Health has responded by saying, "We will never change the values of the NHS - universal, tax-funded, free at the point of need. Nobody should have to pay for any available NHS service, but patients have always had the choice of paying for private healthcare if they so wish."
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Title: Is NHS really free for all?
Author: Martine Hamilton
Article Id: 2617
Date Added: 23rd Apr 2007