NHS could charge fees to call out a doctor
Calling out a doctor to your home could cost £8.50 under radical proposals to shore up the finances of the NHS.The proposals are being outlined as a way of tackling the financial hole in the accounts of the Health Service.
The moves sparked outrage with claims they amount to a patients’ tax and undermine the “free at point of use” principle of the NHS.
There are also fears that ill patients will be discouraged from seeking treatment.
The NHS Confederation, which represents all Health Service trusts, outlined the proposals as a way of generating extra funds and as one option in dealing with the hole in the NHS budget.
The group gave an example of a pilot scheme in Germany where 10 euros was charged for a call out by a doctor.
The federation said there was no plans to suggest charging but frank discussions were needed.
The chief executive Mike Farrar said: “We need to talk openly and honestly about why our Health Service needs to change. We cannot risk the wheels coming off and patient care suffering.”
The report claims the radical proposals may be needed as the NHS faces soaring costs of caring for an ageing population and increasing levels of obesity.
Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said the proposals undermine a fundamental tenet of the NHS.
“Some of these proposals amount to what would effectively be a “patients’ tax”, she said. “It would be absolutely unacceptable for patients to foot bill for reform through new charges.”
Surveys have found 27 per cent of patients would delay calling out a doctor and 18 per cent would avoid it altogether if they had to pay.
However, some trusts are already considering imposing a £10-a-day fee to watch TV.
Last year, an NHS trust went into administration for the first time and officials estimate there are around 20 more in severe crisis, with combined debts of about £130 million.
The costs of propping up Private Finance Initiative (PFI) under Labour’s deal will worsen the position even more in the next decade.
Tags: Doctors, GPs, nhs cash shortages, NHS charges, nhs cutbacks, out of hours, private health