On Monday, the British Medical Association consultant warned that the NHS needed to "face the unpalatable truth that free at the point of contact can no longer be sustained”, at the BMA's annual meeting in Edinburgh.
Gordon Matthews' claims were met with outcry by unions and patients' groups, who claimed that the addition of new fees would put patients off treatment and ultimately affect the health of the nation, particularly the poorer population.
However, Matthews' argued that politicians and the health industry needed to "engage with the public, to explain the issues and seek consensus as to what priorities are for health and social care, and making explicit what can be funded from central taxation and what cannot."
“A publicly funded and free-at-the-point-of- delivery NHS cannot afford all available diagnostics and treatments,” he added.
So, would top-up fees for certain services be a net gain or a net loss for our nation's health? Unison's national secretary for health, Christina McAnea, writes that more fees "would push people into an insurance model of healthcare" and "would be the beginning of the end for the NHS."
However, the Institute of Economic Affairs' senior research fellow Kristian Niemietz argues that a co-payment system would drive up our expectations of the services we receive, in turn improving the NHS. "We would start to hold providers to account, and demand value for money, rather than bow our head and be content with what we are given," he writes.
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