Brown Threatens Universal Entitlement To NHS Care

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Members and supporters of the North East London Council of Action mobilised 3,000 people to march for the occupation of Chase Farm Hospital to keep it open
Members and supporters of the North East London Council of Action mobilised 3,000 people to march for the occupation of Chase Farm Hospital to keep it open

PREMIER Brown’s plans for the NHS to refuse to treat patients whose lifestyles are judged to be responsible for their illnesses were condemned yesterday.

Epsom and St Helier NHS Trust UNISON branch secretary Kevin O’Brien yesterday told News Line ‘These people are a bunch of Tories. It doesn’t make sense. People that are in need, need to be treated.’

Brown is planning for an NHS constitution which will ‘set out for the first time the rights and responsibilities associated with an entitlement to NHS care’.

A British Medical Association spokesperson told News Line: ‘Many health problems stem from habits that people took up before they knew how harmful they were.

‘The government should be helping them rather than punishing them.’

Health minister Ann Keen said those offered medical guidance would be encouraged to act in a ‘responsible’ way but denied smokers or obese people could be refused treatments, insisting: ‘No-one is suggesting that at all.’

In response to plans for ‘self-management of health conditions’, Peter Weissberg, Medical Director of the British Heart Foundation (BHF) told News Line: ‘People affected by heart disease need specialist care.

‘Whilst we support changes that empower people to look after their own health, we would be very concerned if they led to any reduction in the availability or quality of expert care for those who need it.’

Anger over Brown’s rationing proposals came as NHS managers stated that there are now four different NHS systems operating in the UK since devolution.

NHS Confederation chief executive Gill Morgan said there was no longer a universal system across the UK, as there had been when the NHS was set up by the Atlee Labour government in the summer of 1948.

She said: ‘Basically, we have four different systems albeit with the same set of values.’

Referring to Blair and Brown’s privatisation drive, Morgan added: ‘We have had a complete split in philosophy.

‘The model in England is about contestability and choice driving service improvements. Outside organisations have been brought in and patients can shop around.

‘That model has been rejected by the other three (devolved regions).’

Morgan described the approach in Scotland as the ‘collectivist model’ – where people have free personal care, unlike the means-tested systems elsewhere and free prescriptions.

Joyce Robins of Patient Concern warned that the differences were ‘breeding envy’.

She said: ‘Patients are increasingly looking across national borders and wondering why they are not getting the care others are getting. I am not sure that is good for the NHS.’