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Half of all managers expect NHS charging to be reality within a decade

Half of all senior NHS managers believe the NHS will be unable to sustain comprehensive care free at the point of access, and will have to charge for some services within ten years.

A Nuffield Trust survey of 78 senior managers found that 47% of managers thought it was quite or very unlikely that the NHS would still be universally free at the point of access in 2024.

The ‘Into the red’ report also found that despite Government plans to shift care into the community, spending on general practice had only experienced a 0.1% (£10 million) increase in 2012/13, compared with a 2.4% real terms increase for hospitals, and predicts similar increases for 2013/14.

And the report goes on to state that ‘there is no evidence’ to support ministerial claims that the Better Care Fund £3.8bn pooled budget for health and social care will reverse trends in rising emergency admissions.

The Nuffield Trust examined official financial data for 2012/13 from PCTs and hospitals, as well as provisional finances from regulatory bodies for 2013/14, and interviews with senior managers.

Health minister Earl Howe said the findings were ‘unrealistic’ and ‘pessimistic’.

Earl Howe said: ‘These predictions are pessimistic and paint an unrealistic picture of how our NHS is working.’

‘We know some parts of the NHS are under pressure due to an unprecedented rise in demand — which is why in very tight economic circumstances, we have taken tough decisions to increase the NHS budget by £12.7bn over this Parliament, and are ensuring the NHS is sustainable in the long term’

BMA chair Dr Mark Porter said: ‘This report provides audited figures that show the NHS is buckling under the pressure of rising patient demand and stagnating resources.’

‘Every part of our health service is suffering, from understaffed, overworked hospitals to GP practices that are being overwhelmed by the sheer number of patients coming through the surgery door.’

‘Instead we need to focus on working with health professionals and the public to find long-term solutions to the challenges facing our health service.’

At the annual LMCs Conference in York this year, GPs voted to oppose charging patients for general practice visits.