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BMA chief warns against NHS charges

Published 04/04/2015

Charging people to visit their doctor could prevent vulnerable people from getting the care they need, Mark Porter warned
Charging people to visit their doctor could prevent vulnerable people from getting the care they need, Mark Porter warned

Whoever forms the next government must resist the temptation to introduce charges on the NHS, one of the country's leading doctors has said.

Making patients pay for visits to their doctor would "destroy the ultimate ethos" of the health service, British Medical Association chairman Dr Mark Porter told the Guardian.

The consultant anaesthetist said he thinks those in power after the General Election could be tempted to bring in charges, but warned against it, arguing it could prevent the most vulnerable people from getting the care they need.

"It's inescapable that you're deterring people from seeking healthcare. You deter poor people and sick people from seeking the healthcare they need," he told the paper.

Dr Porter said some people have already been discouraged from visiting their dentist because of the associated charges, and warned others had been "bankrupted by social care".

A report from the Social Market Foundation published last month said making people pay towards their NHS treatment could be used to reduce pressure on funding for social care.

The think tank put forward a proposal to introduce Personal Care Accounts, where both the individual and the state contribute towards the costs of NHS and social care treatments.

Those on low incomes or with low levels of wealth would be exempt, it said, adding that its plans would redistribute the costs of social care more fairly across the population and fund a £12 billion funding gap in health and social care services by 2020.

Meanwhile, the Health Foundation commissioned Ipsos Mori to interview a sample of people aged 15 and over, and following interviews with 1,792 people, the research found that 85% of people think that the NHS should be protected from any cuts to public spending.

It found that 59% of people would support increasing taxes as a way of funding the NHS when presented with a range of options.

It also found that 85% of people agree that the Government should support a national health service that is tax-funded, free at the point of use and provides comprehensive care to all citizens.

Most people agreed that the current NHS is both free at the point of use (85%) and provides comprehensive care to all citizens (78%).

However, the public is less sure that this will be the case in five years' time - 63% think that the NHS will be free at the point of use by 2020, 61% think that the NHS will provide comprehensive care for all citizens by the end of the next parliament, and 72% of people think the NHS will still be primarily funded through taxation.

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