PMQs: Sunak and Starmer clash over NHS waiting times
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Former Health Secretary Sajid Javid has claimed NHS patients should be charged for attending GP appointments and Accident and Emergency departments. He said that “extending the contributory principle” could help improve the “unsustainable” healthcare system. However, a new Express.co.uk poll has found 82 per cent of readers do not support his idea.
In an opinion piece for The Times, the Tory MP said he wanted a “grown-up, hard-headed conversation” about the NHS. He said that “too often the appreciation for the NHS has become a religious fervour and a barrier to reform”.
He continued: “We should look, on a cross-party basis, at extending the contributory principle. This conversation will not be easy, but it can help the NHS ration its finite supply more effectively.”
He has proposed enforcing means-tested fees for patients to “protect those on low incomes” and highlighted Ireland, Norway and Sweden as possible models to replicate.
Ireland has a “nominal” €75 (£66) fee for attending an injury unit without a referral, while GP appointments cost the equivalent of £20 in Norway and Sweden.
Downing Street said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is not “currently” considering the suggestion. During his Tory leadership campaign, Mr Sunak proposed a £10 fine for patients who miss NHS GP or hospital appointments but withdrew the pledge after criticism.
In a poll that ran from 5:30pm on Tuesday, January 24, to 11:30am on Thursday, January 26, Express.co.uk asked readers: “Should NHS patients be charged for GP appointments and hospital visits?”
Overall, 1,337 people responded with 82 per cent (1,098 people) answering “no” the NHS should not charge patients.
Whereas 17 per cent (222 people) said “yes” in support of patients contributing, and a further one per cent (17 people) said they did not know either way.
In the comments left below the accompanying article, readers shared their thoughts on the NHS.
Some readers commented that the public already contributed toward the NHS through tax. Username JohnGregory2 said: “We already pay. It’s called National Insurance.”
And username cip said: “The NHS isn’t a free service, it’s been contributed by all citizens from day one of employment.
“No private care can provide the complex services the NHS are providing to save lives. These complex treatments are expensive and deserve funding amongst other care services.”
The vast majority of NHS funding is raised through taxes and National Insurance with a small proportion generated by revenue streaming including prescription costs, parking charges, land sales and offering private healthcare services.
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The Department for Health and Social Care has a 2022/23 budget of £180.2billion, according to The King’s Fund. Some £152.6billion of this will be spent on NHS England and NHS improvement.
Other readers commented that patients should not be made to contribute towards appointments or treatment.
One reader, username buckle, said: “For the poorer among us the choice will be eat, heat or see a doctor.”
Meanwhile, username zigijedi said: “The NHS requires root and branch reform”
Dr Nick Mann, a GP and member of the non-party-political campaign group Keep Our NHS Public, told inews.co.uk: “In practical terms, charging patients to access their GP or for an A&E visit is a zombie idea which is expensive to operate and acts as a deterrent to the patient groups most in need of healthcare….The idea of charging patients extra to access essential medical care is a slippery slope – just look at dentistry.”
Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting said earlier this month that he wants to reform the NHS to make it “so good that people never have to go private”.
He explained that Labour plans to use the private sector as a short-term measure to help clear waiting list backlogs.
He told The Guardian: “Of course, investment is needed in the NHS, but ask any patient about their miserable experiences and it’s partly about culture and systems. That’s got to change too.
“My mission is to make sure the NHS Labour built 75 years ago, publicly funded, free at the point of need, survives the next 75 with those core principles intact.”
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