'Top-up' payments common across UK healthcare

A report has shown that extra private payments to supplement care provided by the NHS are common and UK healthcare is no ‘free at the point of delivery’.

UK healthcare is not 'free at the point of delivery'
UK healthcare is not 'free at the point of delivery'

The report, titled Free at the point of delivery: reality or political mirage?, is written by three practising NHS doctors, including the world-leading oncologist Karol Sikora, and published by Doctors for Reform, a non-party group of nearly 1,000 doctors all working in the NHS.

The report's key points

  • UK healthcare is not free at the point of delivery.
  • The 'top-up' payments occur because of varying limits of the NHS care package in different localities; the limits on NHS quality, including waiting times, delays and service access; the reduction in costs of some private treatments due to advances in technology and the development of a competitive marketplace.
  • Without reform the use of 'top-up' payments is likely to increase.
  • NHS provision of care is inequitable, but so is the current system of ad hoc 'top-up' payments.
  • There must be a proper debate on the future of healthcare funding.
  • Health professionals need to be at the heart of this debate.

Paul Charlson, GP, said: 'Patients now regularly mix and match their healthcare between the NHS and the private sector. Medical professionals see this every day. All parties must engage in a debate.'

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