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NHS care top ups

24th June 2008

The Economist discusses the issue of topping up NHS care.

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It is an issue that is set to overshadow the imminent 60th anniversary of the National Health Service.

But it became one that health secretary Alan Johnson could no longer ignore.

A growing number of stories began appearing of how patients with serious conditions, who had paid privately for the expensive drugs not available to them on the NHS, were being refused NHS care when they later sought it.

It was an increasingly untenable piece of dogma, particularly in the modern age of the internet.

The fiction peddled in a previous era that the highest quality care was being provided for all, according solely to need, was no longer believable to a public that has become much more aware of the drugs and health care that could be available to them.

The articles appearing before health ministers talked of dying cancer patients abandoned by the NHS and forced to spend their life savings on treatment they thought they had already paid for through taxes.

Health think tanks agreed this could not continue and the British Medical Association passed a motion condemning it.

It forced Mr Johnson to shift from merely repeating the policy to addressing the issue, asking the NHS’ national clinical director for cancer Mike Richards to consider whether and when patients may top up their NHS care.

Criticism of the ban on giving NHS care to those who have bought drugs privately has been widespread but as the NHS approaches its landmark anniversary, the debate is set to continue.

 

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