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Charging Patients For Health Care Would Be An NHS Poll Tax

As previously reported by Unionsafety, Labour peer Lord Warner has proposed a £10/month NHS membership charge as well as other patient contributions and charges for continuing care; in a report he co-authored for the right wing think tank, ‘Reform’.

Pic: Unionsafety news item on Reform report on NHS chargesThe report has received a back-lash from numerous patient groups, NHS anti – privatisation campaigners, Trade Unions and charities, not to mention groups representing NHS workers. The latest condemnation comes from the political party, National Health Action Party, formed in 2012; in the wake of the Health & Social Care Act which has effectively privatised the NHS by forcing Care Commissioning Groups and Hospital Trusts to put all NHS srervices out to private tender.

So far, over £8 billion worth of NHS healthcare service contracts have been put out to private health-care companies such as Virgincare, Circle Health, Circo, and Care UK; and are no longer run by the NHS.

But the threat from the Tory-led coalition support for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement is even worse than the Act in 2012. The fact is that under the TTIP as it currently stands, agreement with the EU and the UK government will mean that the privatisation of the NHS could not be stopped, nor could the existing privatised NHS services; be reversed.

Any furure government trying to do so will be sued by the private healthcare companies cocnerend using the provision witihn the TTIP. That is why the NHA Party is fielding European election candidates in May.

The NHA Party issued a press release of condemnation of Lord Warner’s plans at the weekend, which got absolutely zero coverage on UK TV news media.

In it, London Euro Election candidate, Dr Louise Irvine says the NHA Party totally rejects patient charging:

Pic: NHA Party candidate in Euro elections Dr Irvine“This is a “NHS poll tax” that will hit the pockets of the working poor much more than the wealthiest in society. Any charge would be a slippery slope, the cost would go up and up, as we have seen happen with prescription charges.

Charging for the NHS goes against the founding principles of the NHS, that it should be free at the point of use. We should pay for the NHS through progressive general taxation, because that has been repeatedly shown to be the fairest and most cost effective way to fund healthcare.”

The press release goes further and points out:

‘Health policy academics have labelled patient charging as a ‘zombie policy’, because it is a dead idea that vested interests keep trying to bring back to life.

It’s also wrong to say the NHS is unsustainable. The Tories and Lib Dems, and even Labour, have unfortunately been successful in peddling the idea  that we can’t afford the NHS.

This just isn’t true.

The NHS is not unsustainable, it’s underfunded. In fact the Treasury has clawed back over £5 Billion of the NHS budget surplus so far in the lifetime of this government.

UK healthcare spending as a share of GDP is falling, and we are still lagging behind other comparable countries, who despite austerity, have protected their healthcare budgets. According the Nuffield Trust, the NHS is facing an unprecedented £30bn funding gap by 2020.

The reason we are struggling to fund the NHS is down to this government’s policies which are responsible for wasting billions of pounds that should be used for front line care. The government is wasting at least £5 Billion per year to run the unnecessary NHS internal market,  £3 Billion for implementing an unpopular top down reorganisation, billions on repaying PFI loans, and millions spent on making staff redundant, then re-hiring them.’

Detailing the NHA Party’s plans to Save the NHS, in effect the party’s manifesto, the press release concludes:

‘We would address the funding gap by abolishing the healthcare market and PFI, as well as cracking down hard on tax avoidance, which is costing the country billions of pounds. Recent research from Oxford and Stanford Universities, as well as the IMF has shown that public spending on health and education actually stimulate economic growth in the short and long term.

Funding of the NHS is a matter of choice, not affordability, but we must keep the NHS in public hands to keep it cost effective and sustainable for the long term.’

Source: NHA Party / The Guardian / Huffington Post UK / Unionsafety

See also: Labour Party Lord Calls To End Free Healthcare From The NHS

Further info on the TTIP: The Guardian. 4th Nov 2013

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