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Patients should pay for health ‘extras’ themselves, say doctors

Consultants, surgeons and GPs nationwide will argue that the health service can no longer provide everything the public wants, and will demand that a list of ‘core’ services is compiled so patients know what they can and cannot expect from the NHS.

At the British Medical Association’s annual meeting in Edinburgh today, senior doctors will say that top-up charges for treatments and medication outside of this list can no longer be ruled out.

Gordon Matthews, of the BMA consultants’ committee, will tell the conference: “There has never before been a more important time for the Government, the opposition, doctors and other health professionals to engage with the public, to explain the issues and seek consensus as to what priorities are for health and social care, and making explicit what can be funded from central taxation and what cannot.

“A publicly funded and free-at-the-point-of-delivery NHS cannot afford all available diagnostics and treatments.

“Everyone recognises that we’re in times of austerity, there isn’t a lot of money around, while public expectations have gone up and up, medical treatments have become more expensive and there isn’t an easy way to square the circle.”

But patients’ groups and unions have warned that top-up payments were “contrary to the whole ethos of the NHS” and that people would not trust NHS managers to ration care until they dealt with the series of scandals that have hit the health service, the Times reported.

The BMA also carried out a poll to coincide with its annual meeting which revealed that almost two thirds of doctors feel less “empowered” than they did before the Government’s controversial health reforms.

Two thirds said they wanted to make changes or improvements in the last year but were unable to, with red tape and lack of capacity listed as the top barriers for making enhancements, according to the survey of 1,000 doctors.

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