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NHS charging proposals slammed
9:15am Wednesday 2nd April 2014 in News
A REPORT suggesting patients should be charged £10 a month to use the NHS has been slammed by politicians and health bosses in Worcestershire.
On Monday a report co-authored by former Labour health minister Lord Warner was released, calling for a radical overhaul to how the NHS is funded.
Among the recommendations were that each resident would pay a monthly 'membership' fee of £10 alongside council tax.
But the proposals have come under fire from all sectors of society, including from Worcester MP Robin Walker, who said he was "completely against" the idea of charging for the NHS.
"The NHS is free at the point of use and that's the way it should be," he said.
"Charging everyone fixed rates is about the most unprogressive thing I can think of.
"It should continue to be funded through taxation.
"As it stands at the moment the most wealthy are paying more for the NHS and that's as it should be I think."
He added the only situation where he felt it may be fair to charge for services was when patients consistently missed appointments.
"That is an area where some doctors feel very strongly," he said.
"Even then they would need to be very, very careful and make exceptions for people with dementia and so on."
Chairman of Healthwatch Worcestershire Peter Pinfield urged health leaders to carefully examine all elements of the proposal before making a decision.
"The £10 quick fit idea is just not practical and, if in fact if the problem of resources is that serious, any change to the NHS constitution should be put to the nation for our views and possible solutions in a proper factual debate," he said.
"Introducing a charge for appointments would fundamentally change one of the founding principles of general practice - that healthcare is free at the point of need.
"Fees would prove counterproductive and ultimately more expensive, marginalise the less well off and vulnerable in our community.
"We all know it would not stop at £10."
Labour's parliamentary candidate Joy Squires also criticised the idea, calling it "unthinkable".
"It's something we already pay for through our taxes and National Insurance," she said.
"It's a service that's always going to be free at the point of use.
"If there is a crisis in funding in the NHS it's of David Cameron's making because of all the changes he's imposed over the past four years."
The report was published by think-tank Reform, which said patients should also be made to pay hotel-style charges for inpatient care and that the plans would net the NHS more than £6 billion a year.
The Department of Health has also criticised the plans, with a spokesman saying: "This government doesn't support the introduction of membership fees or anything like them".
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