BMA rejects NHS charging

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Demonstrators in London last May determined to defend the NHS
Demonstrators in London last May determined to defend the NHS

THE British Medical Association (BMA) is today warning against NHS charging. Responding to Lord Warner’s call to introduce charging patients a monthly fee to use the NHS, Dr Ian Wilson, Chairman of the BMA’s Representative Body, said: ‘Lord Warner’s conclusion that the NHS is being driven into a worsening funding crisis will ring true with all who work in it.

‘Whilst some of his proposals merit closer examination, resolving under-funding should not be at the expense of the most vulnerable in society nor at the fundamental principle that the National Health Service needs to be free at the point of use and the BMA firmly believes that charging for patients is not the solution.

‘The government has so far failed to provide a fair and sustainable solution to the funding crisis, with its efforts instead focusing on attempting to balance the books on the back of frontline staff through year-on-year pay freezes.’

Also, responding to the NHS Confederation’s survey of politicians, which highlights that seven out of ten MPs believe there is insufficient political will to meet the challenges facing the NHS, Dr Wilson stressed: ‘The government must not risk the NHS’ core value of being based on need, not ability to pay, purely because they are unwilling to take action and make the changes they admit are desperately needed.

‘It is unbelievable that while eight out of ten politicians agree change is essential, almost seven out of ten say there is insufficient political will to allow this to happen. The reality is that the NHS is under intense pressure from a combination of rising patient demand and declining funding.

‘Politicians must confront these challenges head on in order to ensure we can continue to deliver a high standard of care while remaining free at the point of use.’

Meanwhile, the Royal College of Nursing has revealed that, following the Westminster government’s unfair decision to deny the majority of NHS staff a cost of living pay increase, the RCN took part on Friday in an emergency meeting with the leaders of Unison and the British Medical Association.

RCN general secretary Dr Peter Carter said: ‘If £3bn can be found for a chaotic reorganisation, a further £3bn returned to the Treasury, and massive amounts spent on the redundancy payouts of senior managers who are then re-employed elsewhere in the NHS, then the government can surely find the money to pay a decent wage to those who dedicate their working lives to looking after the sick and the vulnerable.’