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Medicopolitical Digest

The BMA's annual representative meeting

BMJ 1997; 315 doi: (Published 12 July 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;315:128

BMA rules out patient charges

The BMA is to examine again alternative ways of paying for the NHS, but it ruled out any idea of patient charges, even though several speakers argued that charges might be the only way of getting extra funds for the NHS. A related motion asked the government to fund the NHS unambiguously and explicitly from public funds with no assumption of efficiency savings or private finance.

Opening the debate on this second motion, Dr Joan Black (West Berkshire) spoke of the despair overwhelming NHS staff as they struggled to maintain standards and services, of 50 years of chronic underfunding and underinvestment in the NHS, of the fact that 69 health authorities and 125 trusts started the year in deficit. Now the secretary of state had warned managers they could expect no extra money in the forseeable future. There was no scope, she said, for extra efficiency savings. What the NHS needed was extra cash now, from public funds.

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The debate then split between those who thought it was naive to deny any contribution from private sources and those who thought charges were anathema and that people would be prepared to pay more in tax for a better NHS. Dr Frank Wells (council) said he was a non-executive director of a trust which was just about to build a new x ray unit and a community hospital with help from private funding. He thought the BMA should not disregard private finance where appropriate. Dr Jonathan Reggler (Buckinghamshire) said that the BMA should look at patient charges: “They work in other countries,” he said, “and there's no evidence that patients come to harm.”

But Dr Ian Bogle (GMSC chairman) said that as an inner city GP he believed that no financial barrier should come between his patients and their general medical services. …

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