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Former health minister calls for universal NHS charges

31 March 2014

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A former health minister has called for a £10 NHS ‘membership fee’, in a report released today. 

According to Lord Warner, the NHS “no longer meets the country’s needs” and is now “outdated…and unaffordable”. 

Writing in the Guardian, Warner said: “Many politicians and clinicians are scared to tell people that our much-beloved 65-year-old NHS no longer meets the country’s needs. 

“Frankly, it is often poor value for money. The NHS now represents the greatest public spending challenge after the general election. MPs taking to the streets to preserve clinically unsustainable hospital services only damage their constituents.”

Lord Warner has co-authored a report for thinktank Reform, which says £10 per month NHS ‘membership fees’ as well as other patient contributions are needed for the NHS to survive the next five years of austerity. 

The report claims that the care delivery model “inflates NHS costs and limits many people’s potential to live longer an healthier lives”. 

It recommends refitting as many primary care centres to deliver integrated care as possible. 

Dr Clive Peedell, an NHS oncologist who is co-leader of the National Health Action party, said the monthly charge would be “an unfair tax because … the poor would pay the same as the rich. It could be as unpopular as the poll tax was. ”

Dr Ian Wilson, chairman of the British Medical Association’s Representative Body, said: Lord Warner’s conclusion that the NHS is being driven into a worsening funding crisis will ring true with all who work in it.

“While some of his proposals merit closer examination, resolving under-funding should not be at the expense of the most vulnerable in society nor at the fundamental principle that the National Health Service needs to be free at the point of use and the BMA firmly believes that charging for patients is not the solution.

“The government has so far failed to provide a fair and sustainable solution to the funding crisis, with its efforts instead focusing on attempting to balance the books on the back of frontline staff through year-on-year pay freezes.”