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Baroness Young: 'Tell patients what their GP care costs'

By Gareth Iacobucci

The chair of the Government's new health and social care regulator has re-ignited the debate over whether patients should be told the cost of their healthcare, by calling for them to be given ‘indicative bills' showing how much was spent on treating them.

Speaking at a King's Fund debate today, Care Quality Commission chair Baroness Barbara Young said giving patients an idea of how much their treatment had cost would allow them to fully appreciate the value of the NHS.

Her call comes despite the Government recently rejecting calls to print the cost of medicines on labels, on the grounds that it would be unlikely to reduce wastage and may discourage patients from using medicines.

Although Baroness Young stressed that the proposal was a personal view, she said the move would be ‘the one thing we could do that would really help the public understand the quality of the NHS.

‘I know we'd have to reassure people who didn't quite understand what we are doing, but I do believe that if we gave people indicative bills whenever they got a service, it would start to turn the corner on the fact that this is a really good service,' she said.

A public accounts committee report recently called on the Government to do more to make patients aware of the costs of drugs, by, for example, displaying costing information on the labels of dispensed drugs.

But a treasury response rejected the advice, claiming that research had shown that printing the cost of a medicine on the label would be ‘unlikely to reduce medicine wastage and could have a negative effect, such as discouraging use of the medicine.'

However, Baroness Young compared the plan to receiving a vet's bill, which she said immediately allowed people to appreciate the costs involved.

‘It costs a shed-load of money, and everybody gets it free at the point of use. It's a bargain,' she said.

The new chair of the Government's ‘super-regulator' also rejected concerns that the recession would derail the drive towards quality, claiming that good providers would be able to provide cost-effective yet quality care.

‘Good quality care actually costs less, or at least certainly doesn't cost more,' she said.

‘Good performers grapple with financial problems and deliver quality, poor performers fail on both.'

CQC chair Baroness Young CQC chair Baroness Young

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