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NHS 'top ups' debate

9th July 2008

Family doctors have called for an independent review of the ban on NHS patients paying to top up their care.

Drugs & Money

The issue was debated at the British Medical Association annual conference and led to doctors voting for a motion calling for such payments to be allowed.

The doctors want to see a Royal Commission review, though have not demanded an immediate end to the current ban.

In the UK, anyone who pays for private treatment can be barred from the normal package of NHS care.

The policy has been criticised in recent months after cancer patients found themselves disqualified from NHS care after paying for some aspects of their treatment privately.

A government review of the policy has already been announced in England and Scotland, though this is limited just to drugs, but doctors want that review to be carried out independently and also examine other areas of care.

BMA chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum said his “gut instinct” was that it went against the values of the NHS but said there needed to be a thorough debate.

Dr Stephen Austin of the BMA’s consultants committee told the conference: “This is grossly unfair to these patients at the most vulnerable time of their life.

“This is not what the NHS stands for and goes against the founding principles of the NHS.”

A vote saw 63% of doctors say they believed patients should be able to buy private treatment without losing their right to NHS care although 53% accepted that it could create a two-tier NHS.

 

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