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DH not thinking about extending NHS charges, says finance chief

Civil servants in the Department of Health are doing no modelling for extending NHS charging, they have told a Lords NHS committee.

In a hearing with the newly appointed House of Lords Committee on the Long-term Sustainability of the NHS today, a panel of Department of Health representatives said that despite the pressure under which the service is under, there were no plans to stop NHS services being free to the public.

Andrew Baigent, director of finance at the Department of Health, told the committee that as civil servants, they were bound by policies laid out by elected ministers who have made no such plans.

He said: 'The Government has been quite clear that it sees funding being taxpayer-funded [and] we are not exploring any particular avenues in terms of longer-term thinking about charging at the moment.'

Asked whether he thought continuing a free-at-the-point-of-need NHS is 'sustainable', Mr Baigent added: 'That is current policy and that is the way we are thinking.'

He added that the Government is currently working on improving charging of people not eligible for free NHS care, such as overseas visitors, as well as considerations over prescription charging.

But he said this was all related to services that were already subject to fees, adding: 'We have done no thinking beyond that in terms of charging.'

But Lord Willis of Knaresborough said: 'I find it somewhat incredulous that we, like any modern healthcare system, are faced with issues of long-term sustainability... and yet you are doing absolutely no thinking about [whether] there are any items that we could in fact remove from the free at the point of delivery... and actually put them on the pay list.'

Readers' comments (5)

  • Burying heads in the sand over the problems the NHS is facing will have disasterous results. Once the highly trained workforce has reduced to a critical level there is no going back. It will not be possible to lure us back from new lives we have built abroad, from retirement, from a lesser stressed environment of locuming or working outwith the NHS etc. The situation by and large will be irreversible. I am aghast at how deluded and inept The Department of Health is.

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  • Top up and co payment options can't come fast enough.
    If the government is the sole payer then we will design continue to experience a politicised health service.

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  • Yeah sure. And no one listens to your calls or traces your web traffic. Sure. You haven't thought about it at all.

    Just like you're not working on personal budgets for maternity (£3-6k).

    It was discussed in Lords some time ago that 'all available options' needed to be considered. If that isn't policy...

    Just nicely and quietly folks. Don't scare the horses.

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  • Civil Servant: 'Oh yes, we're looking at Personal health budgets. And there may be top up options on them, for additional services, or insurance. But we're not looking at outright charging per se.'

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  • This is insane- it's politics that counts and not rational thinking.
    At least they could have considered a charge for DNAs so people know that they shouldn't waste time and deprive others from using the service.

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