Health professionals back NHS top-ups

Alan Johnson's announcement that NHS patients in England can 'top up' treatment has been broadly welcomed by groups representing doctors and nurses.

Alan Johnson Credit: Charlie McDonald

The British Medical Association (BMA) said the health secretary’s decision to stop patients who bought drugs privately being denied NHS treatment offered a practical way of balancing ‘the rights of individual patients with the values of fairness and equality on which the NHS is based’. However, it added that a wider public debate was needed about the scope of a publicly funded healthcare system.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said that the change could have a big impact on the work of nurses. ‘The government needs to work with nurses and patients to ensure that this does not bring about a business class versus a no-frills NHS,’ RCN chief executive Peter Carter said. There are also significant issues about how the principle would be translated into practice to avoid a two-tier health service, he stressed. 

The NHS Confederation also warned that the challenge of implementing the policy would be in untangling the detail. ‘It is critical that patients are made fully aware of what they are paying for with clear and explicit advice from clinicians about drugs that have not been approved as both clinically and cost effective,’ Nigel Edwards, NHS confederation policy director, said.

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