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Top-up payments 'will create two-tier NHS', MPs claim

By Nigel Praities

MPs have criticised Government plans to allow patients to pay for private treatment without having NHS treatment withdrawn, saying it will lead to a ‘two tier service'.

The report from the Health Committee on the debate over top-up fees, said the Department of Health's safe-guards on separating NHS and private treatment would be hard to implement in practice.

The report warns the plans risk resulting in patients only getting a ‘core service' on the NHS, with patients obliged to co-fund aspects of their care or go without.

‘We are not convinced by the arguments that dismiss the threats of establishing a two-tier system or that separation of patients is practicable for only a part of their treatment.

‘Two patients with the same condition on the same NHS ward might receive different treatments because one patient could afford it and the other could not. This must not be allowed to happen,' it reads.

The report goes on to say that the only way to reduce the inequalities in access to treatments in the NHS is to speed up drug reviews by NICE and standardise the way exceptional funding decisions are made by PCTs.

‘We recommend that the Department actively addresses the problems of prioritisation by initiating open discussions about NHS treatments or services that should be reduced or not provided,' the report concludes.

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