Shortfall threatens free NHS for all

Refrom NHS Conference: NHS fees

The shortage of cash in the NHS could force it to abandon the principle of 'free at the point of delivery', experts have warned.

Funding is expected to fall from 2011 and the NHS Confederation warned last week that the NHS was already heading for a £15 billion shortfall.

Mark Millar, a former accountant and the chief executive of Hinchingbrooke NHS Care Trust, Cambridgeshire, said charging for services could not be ruled out.

He said this was not as radical a shift as was often portrayed. 'Medical services are currently free. But my optical care isn't, my dental care isn't, and I pay for the pharmaceuticals I use.'

Alan Downey, head of UK healthcare at financial experts KPMG, agreed. 'Ministers say the founding principles of the NHS are sacrosanct. I'm not sure they are,' he said.

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