Seven in 10 think charges for NHS care are on the way | NHS

Seven in 10 people in the UK believe charges for NHS care will rise over the next decade, ending the health service’s record of being free at the point of use, a poll has found.

One of the key founding principles of the NHS from 1948 is in jeopardy, according to 71 per cent of the public, according to the survey carried out for the Health Foundation ahead of the service’s 75th anniversary this week.

Although almost three in four say the NHS in its current free form is ‘crucial’, 51% say they expect to pay for some services over the next decade, while 13% believe the most services will need to be prepaid and 7% advance charge for all services.

Tim Gardner, deputy director of policy at the Health Foundation, said the think tank interpreted the findings as an “expression of concern that what the public values ​​most about the NHS – affordable care delivered free to the point of use – could be threatened”. .

He said: “The sustainability of the principle that the health service would provide care based on need and not ability to pay has been regularly questioned throughout its history, particularly at times when the service is under great pressure.”

There had been growing calls for sweeping changes, such as charging for GP appointments and A&E visits, Gardner added.

Politicians such as Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, Liz Truss, his predecessor in Number 10, and former Chancellor and Health Secretary Sajid Javid have all backed one or both of these ideas as potential ways to raise more money for the NHS and reduce demand. . Critics dismissed them as “zombie” ideas that were impractical and wouldn’t help.

The Health Foundation survey of 2,540 people over the age of 16, conducted by Ipsos, was carried out at a time when the pressure on the NHS was enormous due to the backlog of waiting lists and shortages of staff, and as strikes by junior doctors and consultants loom this month.

On Sunday, Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of NHS England, urged the government and healthcare unions to settle their dispute as soon as possible, saying patients would “pay the price” for the unprecedented scale of the action. She said the strikes must not become “business as usual” for the NHS.

A separate Ipsos poll shows most Britons support healthcare workers in their wave of strikes over pay and conditions this year despite worsening disruptions, with support for doctors in training at around 56% in June.

Wes Streeting, the Shadow Health Secretary, said there was ‘no doubt that after destroying the NHS for 13 years, many Tories will now use their failure to argue that its founding principles must be abandoned’ advocating for billing. He said Labor would “never let that happen”.

“The future of the NHS will be on the ballot in the next election,” he said. “It was the work that created the NHS and ensured it was there for us when we needed it, delivering the shortest waiting times and greatest patient satisfaction in history.

“It will be up to the next Labor Government to save the NHS from the biggest crisis in its history and breathe new life into the service so that it will still be there for us for the next 75 years.”

Daisy Cooper, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats and party health spokesperson, said the Lib Dems would ‘outline our plans to ensure we have a fit for the 21st century NHS that remains free at the point of use’ before the next elections.

“Waiting lists, staff sick leave and demand for social care are skyrocketing and only getting worse under this out of touch Conservative government,” she said.

Tory peer James Bethell, who was health minister at the height of the Covid pandemic, said the waiting list situation was already so bad it amounted to ‘rationing’, but he said that he didn’t think charging for services was a good idea.

He said: “People might think the pressures on the NHS are making charging inevitable, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea or popular. I haven’t seen any evidence that billing will improve results.

He pleaded for “a new contract between government and the public that is not just a one-sided promise of free access, but more of a partnership around a healthy lifestyle”.

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