NHS patients 'should pay £10 monthly membership fee'

Mar 31, 2014

Former Labour health minister Lord Warner claims member scheme could secure £2bn a year for NHS

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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".

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Arn't the British Workers paying the so called 'fee' through their contributions deducted directly from their wages/salaries

Utter tosh ... just watch the Select Committees on Parliament TV and see how much money is wasted by commissioners and providers. Giving more money to the NHS is like pouring petrol on a fire.

Why call it a membership fee? It is just another tax, like NI. If the money is needed, it should come from taxes. Packaging it up in a different colour wrapper makes no sense.

clamp down on health tourists.

Lord Warner, "A career civil servant from 1960", does not seem to know about National Insurance which I have paid for more than 40 years. He is confusing funding with delivery of the medical services - we have enough if we use it wisely. Funding is limited, so delivery must also be limited. So that means that we cannot all have everything, at all ages, from baby to mother to elderly. We all need care, but maybe we cannot all have cosmetic surgery, the latest drugs, stomach belts instead of rationing and exercise. And babies at 50 by special donor procedure [mostly on private health].
"Free at the point of use - need and delivery" is essential, but it is impossible to deliver everything possible to all regardless of cost.
Alas this means, as is inevitable, that the rich will get more, but we need to ensure that the rest of us get enough - which is a lot more than a generation ago. I expect there is colour TV is hospital !

I'm ok with this as long as NI contribution goes down by the same amount.

Cut down on overpaid administrators. Stop the £500k pat on the back parties 'for saving money' or any other excuse. No unnecessary cosmetic treatments. Health tourists to pay for treatment, etc, etc. Maybe drunks and drug taking incidents requiring an ambulance could carry an 'ambulance fee', this may encourage more responsible behaviour. Hardworking people, present and retired, already pay/have paid towards the NHS and should not have to suffer paying yet another tax.

Brilliant move by Osborne. Now all those pensioners who cash in their small pension pots will find they are not entitled to funded social care because they have more than the £18.5k threshold. There's real initiative for you.