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'Charge for some NHS care'

Patients should be asked to pay for certain NHS treatments in order to ration care and help pay for improvements to services, a report by an influential health academic has concluded.

Professor Peter Smith, director of the Centre for Health Economics at the University of York, said patients should be provided with a core 'statutory package' of care, approved by NICE and paid for through taxes.

But charges should be levied on care that fell outside that package, he said.

In a report for the Social Market Foundation, Professor Smith wrote: 'It will take political courage to implement such explicit rationing, but the alternative may be steadily to reduce the scope and quality of the NHS by stealth.

'Although a daunting undertaking, NICE could in principle be given the expanded remit of recommending the entire scope of the publicly subsidised package.'

If treatment failed to meet NICE's cost-effectiveness criteria, patients could be asked to fund the difference out of their own pockets, Professor Smith added.

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