NHS in talks over 8.50 charge to call out a doctor while hospital patients would also be forced to pay for their mealsControversial plans put forward to tackle pressure on NHS financesNHS Confederation boss says cost of aging population to blame
Campaigners worry patients could be discouraged from seeking treatment
Sophie Borland Health Reporter
00:02 GMT, 18 March 2013
00:02 GMT, 18 March 2013
Patients could be charged 8.50 to call an out-of-hours doctor to their home under controversial plans outlined today.
The sick could also be forced to pay for their hospital meals or increased charges to watch television on NHS wards.
The proposals are being floated as a way of tackling the ‘unprecedented financial dilemma’ faced by the Health Service.
Controversial: Patients could be charged 8.50 to call an out-of-hours doctor to their home under plans outlined today (file picture)
But campaigners expressed outrage at the ‘frank discussion’ document, saying it undermined the founding principle of the NHS that care must be free at the point of use.
They also warned that seriously ill patients could be discouraged from seeking treatment if they feared being unable to afford the fees.
The NHS Confederation, which represents all Health Service trusts, devised the ideas as ways of generating extra funds.
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 NHS is facing severe pressure on its finances. We need to have a frank discussion about the road ahead.’
The report makes it clear that the NHS is under dire financial strain thanks to the soaring costs of caring for an ageing population.
Food for thought: The sick could also be forced to pay for their hospital meals or increased charges to watch television on NHS wards (file picture)
There are also rising numbers patients suffering illnesses caused by obesity and alcohol abuse. This already totals 17.9billion a year and is expected to rise even further.
Last night Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: ‘Calling out a doctor or having a meal in hospital are key tenets of an NHS which is free at the point of use. Some of these proposals amount to what would effectively be a “patients’ tax”.
‘It would be absolutely unacceptable for patients to foot the bill for reform through new charges.’
Andrew Gwynne, a Labour health spokesman, said: ‘Long-term efficiency savings are not being made.
‘Instead, the NHS is cutting the “low-hanging fruit”, such as staffing, with serious consequences for patient care.
‘The Government should take heed of this advice from the NHS Confederation.’
Pressure: NHS Confederation chief executive Mike Farrar said that a frank discussion was needed as the NHS faces severe pressure on its finances
Any fees would apply to everyone over 18 who has basic health insurance – around 90 per cent of the population.
But 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 130million.
The costs of propping-up Private Finance Initiative deals will worsen the position even more in the next decade.
Now, the NHS spends 1.5billion of its annual 100billion budget on these but this is set to double in the next decade, warned the report.