Labour warns of NHS `safety net'

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The Independent Online
Labour last night warned that a meeting of NHS trust leaders in London today to select an insurance company for health service pay-beds will pave the way for turning the health service into a "safety net" for those too poor to pay for care.

Four insurance companies will make bids for the nationwide contract to offer insurance for private pay-beds in NHS hospitals to the leaders of 73 hospital trusts.

Norwich Union is being tipped to replace Bupa, the private health insurance specialist, which pulled out of providing care for NHS pay-beds to concentrate on Bupa-backed private hospitals.

Tessa Jowell, Labour's health spokeswoman, said it was part of a "secret agenda" by the Government to switch most patients into private health schemes, leaving the rest to the NHS. The charge is strongly denied. Colin Brown