NHS charges 'should target the rich and elderly', says King's Fund think-tank

  • @oliver_wright

New charges should be introduced for richer patients and pensioners and for visiting the GP, a major new study concludes today.

A Commission set up by the respected think-tank the King’s Fund says it could be necessary to raise money from wealthier patients to meet the long-term care needs of those who cannot afford to pay.

It also suggests the exemption from prescription charges for those aged over 60 could be removed or increased to 65, saying not all pensioners are poor.

Extending charges for dentistry could also increase revenue, while a fee for visiting the GP – of between £5 and £25 – could also be introduced.

The report also floats the idea of charging outpatients £10 for hospital appointments, while those who fail to turn up could also be charged as a penalty. Costs for hospital stays or hospital treatment might also have to be considered. It argues the changes are required to end the “lottery” of care that exists with local council cutting back on social care while NHS budgets are ring-fenced.

Another recommendation is for health and social care services in England to be merged with a single ring-fenced budget, as the report argues the separation between the NHS and social care is no longer “fit for purpose”.

“The contrast between a health service free at the point of use and a social care service that is means tested – and publicly funded only for those with heavy needs – results in a lottery, the type of ailment you have will determine the financial support you get to cope with its effects,” it says. “The outcome is that there is no equity.”

The Commission on the Future of Health and Social Care in England was established by the King’s Fund to provide fresh ideas for a problem.

The commission’s chairwoman, Kate Barker, said the situation was unsustainable.