NHS patients 'should pay £10 monthly membership fee'
Former Labour health minister Lord Warner claims member scheme could secure £2bn a year for NHS
THE NHS should be topped up with a £10-a-month "membership fee" to prevent it from going bust, a former Labour health minister has suggested.
Lord Warner, who served under Tony Blair, has warned that the NHS is facing a "care and cash crisis", with an expected shortfall of £30bn a year by 2020, and needs new sources of funding to remain viable.
"Many politicians and clinicians are scared to tell people that our much-beloved 65-year-old NHS no longer meets the country's needs," he writes in The Guardian. "Frankly, it is often poor value for money. The NHS now represents the greatest public spending challenge after the general election."
Warner believes we have to "escape the constraints of general taxation if we want a decent system". He estimates that a £10-a-month membership scheme, with free membership for those exempt from prescription charges, could produce more than £2bn a year in additional funding.
In return for the fee, Warner suggests everyone in the UK of working age would be entitled to an annual "health MOT". The fee would be collected with council tax to fund local preventative health care.
But the British Medical Association has condemned the idea as an "NHS tax on patients" that would threaten the underlying principles of the health care system. One doctor said it was politically "as poisonous as the poll tax". NHS England and the Royal College of GPs also oppose charging patients for access to care, while the Department of Health said: "The founding principles of the NHS make it universally free at point of use and we are clear that it will continue to be so. This government doesn't support the introduction of membership fees or anything like them."
Warner, who has co-authored a report for the think-tank Reform, says revenue could also come from higher "sin" taxes on alcohol, tobacco and sugary foods, while visitors staying overnight in hospitals should pay "hotel charges".