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Public fears over potential NHS charges

More than 50 per cent of people believe that in 10 years' time the NHS will be charging for its services, according to a survey by the British Medical Association
More than 50 per cent of people believe that in 10 years' time the NHS will be charging for its services, according to a survey by the British Medical Association (BMA).

Just over 1,000 people were polled during the survey, which was conducted on behalf of the BMA by researchers, Hamilton Lock. Participants were asked about their views on the effectiveness of changes to the NHS during the past decade, commercial companies providing healthcare to NHS patients and on future funding for the NHS.

Half of the survey respondents said that they expect to start making individual payment contributions for the NHS services they use. Nine out of 10 of the survey participants said the NHS should continue to be funded from UK taxes and that patients should not be charged at the point of use.

"It is possible that the English government's increasing use of the commercial sector in providing NHS services is fuelling patients' concerns that the NHS will begin to charge for some care in the future," said Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the BMA council. "The public may also fear that with rising drug and treatment costs, advances in medical technology and increasing demand for services, the NHS will no longer be able to afford a completely comprehensive health service."

"It would be a travesty if, by default, charges were introduced, destroying the ethos of a universal and equitable health care system that is valued by patients and admired across the world," Meldrum concluded.

Almost two in three people disagreed with companies making a profit for providing NHS care and 51 per cent of the respondents oppose the government's policy to encourage commercial firms to provide NHS healthcare.

Some 42 per cent of survey participants thought that changes to the NHS in the past 10 years had been successful while 36 per cent said they believe changes have been ineffective.

7th July 2008

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