The Government is taking the first steps to privatise the NHS and turn it into an American-style health service, Andy Burnham has claimed.
The shadow health secretary accused the Government of running down the NHS as part of a plan to "soften it up" for privatisation, telling delegates at the Labour Party conference in Brighton that many patients were being denied treatment simply because of where they lived.
Mr Burnham also alleged private firms were winning contracts to provide services because of donations they had made to the Conservative Party. In a speech to the main hall, he accused Prime Minister David Cameron of setting unfair restrictions on NHS hospitals to provide a certain amount of private care.
He said: "Get ready for the next scandal - NHS hospitals, pushed by Mr Cameron to earn half their income from private patients, charging for beds left empty by these new restrictions.
"Think about that - NHS hospitals, built with public money, charging people for treatments that used to be free and (are) still free to people living elsewhere. NHS staff turned over to priority care of those who can pay or are in such pain they have to dig deep.
"Suffer or pay - the same old choice in a two-tier Tory NHS. We've got to wake people up to what is happening now. These are the first steps towards an American healthcare system, (with) English hospitals now asking for credit cards before they give care."
Mr Burnham also attacked ministers for criticising the NHS because they wanted to make it easier to introduce privatisation. He said: "They have spent all year running it down and we know why, don't we? They are softening it up to sell it off. Look at what's happened: major contracts for NHS work won by Tory donors - donors who bankrolled Andrew Lansley when he was planning his health bill.
"And you can see why. Huge private health firms, run by people who have donated £1.5 million to the Tories, winning £1.5 billion in NHS contracts. Who gave this Prime Minister permission to sell the NHS to his friends? Nobody. He just did it, as born-to-rule Tories do."
Labour would give family carers home-based support and a named contact to help them co-ordinate their needs, Mr Burnham said. He added that if elderly people were taken to hospital they would be accompanied by care staff they knew to give them peace of mind.
The shadow health secretary said he wanted an NHS based on "people not profits" and committed to repealing the coalition's Health And Social Care Act in the first Queen's Speech.