NHS might have to attract more private money if it is to improve standards

BMJ 2008; 336 doi: (Published 26 June 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;336:1457
  1. Rebecca Coombes
  1. 1London

The United Kingdom has little choice but to pull more private funds into the NHS, by such methods as allowing patients to top up care by paying out of their own pocket, if it is to maintain and improve healthcare standards in the future, a leading academic said this week.

Chris Ham, professor of health policy and management at Birmingham University, who was giving the first BMJ lecture, pointed out that the UK relied far less on private funding than other Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries. In the UK, 87% of health spending comes from the public purse compared with 72-73% in the average OECD country.

“If we look at our funding levels in the UK compared to OECD countries, we are now at one end of the spectrum. If we are going to fund new technologies, how far are we willing to move in the direction of other OECD countries?”

He said it was almost a foregone conclusion that the government will allow cancer patients to make “top up” payments for drugs …

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