Tory health passport 'will favour wealthy'

Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online

Tory plans to introduce a voucher system to boost spending on private health care and cut NHS waiting lists would benefit the wealthy at the expense of the poor, medical organisations said yesterday.

Tory plans to introduce a voucher system to boost spending on private health care and cut NHS waiting lists would benefit the wealthy at the expense of the poor, medical organisations said yesterday.

The Conservatives' plan for a "patient passport", which would entitle holders to state-subsidised private health care, puts clear blue water between the two main parties on health. The scheme was criticised yesterday for sacrificing equity and endangering the future of the NHS.

Under the plans, set out in a policy document, Setting Patients Free, officially launched yesterday, patients who chose to use the private sector would be given a subsidy of up to 60 per cent of the NHS cost of treatment, which they could top up with their own money.

Dr Liam Fox, the shadow Health Secretary, said 300,000 people paid for their operations in the private sector last year, three times more than in 1997. He said that encouraging this trend was a way of increasing patient choice while reducing the burden on the NHS. He said: "We believe it is right to acknowledge financially the sacrifices people make who pay for their own operations and help cut waiting lists and save NHS resources. It is not privatisation. No one is selling the NHS."

But medical organisations warned that the plan would undermine the NHS principle of providing care regardless of the ability to pay. Gill Morgan, the chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: "There needs to be careful thinking to ensure that patient choice is a reality for all patients."

Steve Dewar, of the Kings Fund, a health policy think-tank, said: "The relatively wealthy are more likely to use the NHS passport, which will take resources out of the public system and leave a reduced service for the rest."

Comments