A new report by influential think tank Reform and former Labour health minister, Lord Normal Warner, states that in order to help save the NHS it needs to turn into a ‘National Health and Care Service’ (NHCS), with integrated health and social care available in local communities and consolidation of hospital specialist services on fewer sites of higher quality.
To help fund this, the report proposes that a 10 a month membership fee should be introduced, as well as other patient contributions. While NHS taxes should not rise above inflation, it claims any shortfalls could be made up through measures such as increased prescription charges, charges for overnight stays in hospitals and placing higher taxes on alcohol, tobacco and sugary foods. Changes which have been estimated to yield over 6billion a year.
With the NHS facing a major cash crisis, with services being cut back and staff pay being frozen, new streams of funding like this certainly would benefit the organisation and its local community health services. It could help provide better resources, equipment, and care for patients. But are these proposed changes really suitable?
The proposed NHS membership, for instance, would include yearly health MOT checks for patients, in which they can set new responsibilities for both the NHS and the individual. But with many people struggling to get by in the current economic climate, 10 monthly membership fees and additional charges could hit vulnerable people and those on lower incomes hard. What’s more, some may say charging patients goes against the principles of what the NHS stands for in the UK.
People who are opposing this report are arguing that the government should commit to funding the NHS properly and stop wasting money that could be spent better on frontline care.