When the NHS was set up in the late 1940's, its Charter stated that healthcare in the UK would be 'free at the point of demand'. Those creating the NHS thought healthcare should be a right not a privilege. With the current government looking at alternative funding methods and the Opposition making suggestions as to increase funding, will this important part of the Charter remain?
£10 to see your GP?
In March this year family doctors voted against the idea suggested by the thinktank Reform that patients should be charged £10 every time they see a GP. The thinking behind it was that this would 'reduce demand' at GP surgeries.
Family doctors didn't like it. In the British Medical Association's annual conference in May, a meeting of GP's discussed charging people to see them. The conference found against the motion. One family doctor said it would alter the way people saw their doctor, "Charging will fundamentally change the unique relationship between GPs and patients".
Tenner a month 'membership fee'?
A left leaning think tank has suggested that everyone in the UK should pay £10 a month 'membership fee' to receive care from the NHS. Given there are around 50 million adults in the UK, that would increase the NHS budget from around £100 billion a year to £106 billion a year " chickenfeed in terms of the overall cost.
The author, Lord Warner, suggested that a charge of this kind is necessary to pay for an ageing population where the elderly are being poorly served. Many agree that those who need the best care the most "the elderly and frail" are being failed.
Again, there was a hostile response. An NHS cancer doctor who also runs the NHS Action Party, Dr Clive Peedell said of the idea "The poor would pay the same as the rich. It could be as unpopular as the poll tax was"
The NHS costs an awful lot of money. With rights come responsibility, and if people want a right to free healthcare they must somehow pay for it. The NHS is repeatedly shown in polls to be extremely dear to British hearts, and is also one of the best national healthcare systems in the world. No government would survive if they got rid of it!
The debate as to how to pay for better healthcare will continue for many years. What is certain is that the way we pay for it now, through National Insurance contributions, is likely to change. Will healthcare be free at the point of demand in future? One can't even be certain of that!