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Landmark top up decision made

4th November 2008

New government plans will allow patients in England to "top up" their NHS care by making their own payments for treatment.

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Patients have previously not able to receive health service treatment if they fund medication costs themselves, although this has been enforced in different ways across the country.

Under the new regulations, patients will have to fund staff hours for their treatment and blood tests.

Health Secretary Alan Johnson said only a "small number" of patients would be able to fund their own drug treatment, but it was not right to disallow them from using NHS services.

"This issue was causing distress to patients and their relatives - and none of us wanted the uncertainty and inconsistency to continue," he added.

The Department of Health has been carrying out a review of the subject, which it began in June.

The review was started after patients complained that the ban was too harsh and many trusts enforced it inconsistently. More than 15,000 patients submitted appeals to their NHS trusts in 2007 after they were not allowed treatment.

Professor Mike Richards, national clinical director for cancer, submitted his report at the end of last month after speaking to staff, charities and users of the health service.

Nigel Edwards, director of policy at the NHS Confederation, said he thought a policy change would help an "unsupportable" system.

But he added: "Allowing private payments alongside NHS care cannot be allowed to become the thin end of the wedge - no one wants a two-speed health service."

 

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