NHS PATIENTS suffering from the same illness, in the same NHS hospital ward, will now be able to purchase drugs and better care, under a new top-up scheme, if they have the cash, a senior Labour government health official admitted yesterday.
This means that rich patients will be able to pay for drugs not provided by the NHS that will save their lives, while a patient in the next bed may be dying from the same complaint because he or she does not have the cash to purchase the drugs.
Rich patients will be able to purchase this better care without losing their entitlement to have the rest of their care on the NHS.
Speaking to a parliamentary select committee, Una O’Brien, the director of policy and strategy for the Department of Health, has admitted that there was a ‘theoretical chance’ this could happen.
Professor Michael Richards, who led the Government review on top-up care, said that when a cancer patient chooses to buy a drug not available on the NHS it could be administered separately from their NHS care, in a private wing of an NHS hospital.
Such a procedure will establish a two-tier NHS, where the rich who can afford top-up care will be hidden in private wards.
Karen Jennings, UNISON Head of Health commented yesterday: ‘We want to see the best for patients and the current system needs changing, but introducing top-ups, even for a small number, will shake the very foundations of the NHS.’
She added: ‘It’s time drug companies faced up to their social responsibilities and cut the cost of their outrageously expensive drugs. These multi-national companies spend more on marketing than they do on research and development. They could play a major role in ensuring patients get the drugs they need without having to resort to top-ups.’
A BMA spokesperson said: ‘This was always a concern about changing the rules on top-up payments. The key challenge was always going to be avoiding the creation of a two-tier system where some NHS patients receive inferior treatment to others because they cannot afford to top-up.’
He added: ‘NHS staff need there to be mechanisms in place which reduce the likelihood of this happening.’
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) which favoured a regulated top-up care regime, commented: ‘The implications of unfettered top-up care could have a huge impact on the founding principles of the NHS, which is why the government must be clear in its decision about how top-up care works in practice.
‘We do not want to face a situation where two patients in neighbouring beds can be offered different menus of treatment, based solely on their ability to pay.’
The RCN added: ‘Nurses will be on the front line, experiencing the practical effects of following through on this policy, and helping all patients with advice, assistance and difficult decisions.’
The RCN decided that it was wrong to deny a patient the right to buy drugs, if the NHS could not afford to purchase them.
Now with ‘top-up’ about to be introduced, the floodgates are about to open and the NHS, with free care at the point of need, swept away.
The writing is clearly on the wall for the NHS, and the trade union leaders have nowhere to run and nowhere to hide on this issue.
The NHS can only survive by being able to provide the necessary treatment for all patients.
This means the trade unions must start fighting to defend it. The private companies that consume billions of the NHS budget must be sacked.
The PFI hospitals must be nationalised and the PFI deals cancelled without compensation.
The Brown government that has brought the NHS to the edge of the abyss must be brought down, and a workers government brought in that will nationalise the drug companies to slash the price of drugs.
The savings from driving the privateers out of the NHS must be used to train the necessary numbers of doctors, nurses, and consultants to provide the care that is needed.