Tories plan 'passport' to subsidise private treatment

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Indy Politics

Every patient in Britain would be entitled to state-subsidised private health care under radical plans for the NHS unveiled by the Tories last night.


Every patient in Britain would be entitled to state-subsidised private health care under radical plans for the NHS unveiled by the Tories last night.

In the party's latest key policy announcement, a so-called Patients' Passport would allow people to use any hospital within the NHS or outside it, with their finance for treatment automatically following them.

For those who choose to stay within the NHS, they will be in effect given a voucher-style entitlement for a treatment that they can spend where they like. Popular hospitals would receive more cash, while less popular ones would lose money.

Patients who want to bypass the NHS and use the voluntary sector or private provision would be given a subsidy of up to 60 per cent towards the cost of an operation. A consultation paper on the plans published today will ask for views on the exact level of subsidy.

About 300,000 people paid for their own operations last year - three times the number in 1997 when Labour came to power. The Tories want to increase the number of private operations to reduce NHS waiting lists.

One question the consultation will seek answers to is the likely impact of the scheme on the NHS if large numbers of patients use their passport and the cash that goes with it to get treatment in the private sector.

Liam Fox, the shadow Health Secretary, said the proposals would provide a powerful incentive to create new non-NHS treatment centres and thereby increase overall healthcare capacity.

The party would also end political interference in the NHS by giving every hospital foundation status and autonomy from Whitehall.

The health policy follows proposals to abolish tuition fees, employ 40,000 extra police officers, and set a quota for asylum-seekers. Only pensions and transport policy have not yet been launched.

Mr Fox said: "By incentivising people to make their own contribution, we will start to reflect a more European style of spending on health."

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