NHS 'Could Be Forced To Charge For Beds' If Funding Issues Not Addressed

The NHS May Be Forced To Introduce A Fee Of £75 For Overnight Hospital Stays, Experts Warn

07.10.2014

NHS hospitals could be forced to charge up to £75 per night for patients to stay in beds if the health service's funding issues are not adequately addressed in the near future, a leading figure within the organisation has warned.

Speaking to the Independent, chief executive of the NHS Confederation Rob Webster stated: "If the NHS cannot afford to fund everything, then it will need to make tough choices about what it does fund."

An unnamed source from the NHS added that this could potentially mean 'bed and board' charges being brought in, possibly of up to £75 a night.

However, the source hinted that this cost may not apply to all patients, but only to those who can afford to pay it.

They said: "Do we say to reasonably well-off people: 'Your healthcare is free, but we are going to charge you £75 per night board and lodging?'."

Introducing a fee for beds would go against the founding principles of the health service, which has always prided itself on providing free care for people in the UK. Therefore, any such change would most likely require authorisation from the Department of Health.

A government spokesman commented on the reports, stating: "The NHS will remain free at the point of use," explaining that its healthcare budget had increased by £12.7 billion during this parliament alone, with significant investment in community services in particular.

Yet Mr Webster warned the NHS could be forced to "think the unthinkable" and bring in "unpalatable" alterations to its services unless something is done to resolve its increasingly prevalent funding issues.

In another attempt to ease the pressure the NHS and its staff are currently dealing with, health service bosses are reportedly considering extending waiting lists, meaning patients could be forced to wait for up to one year for routine procedures, such as joint replacement surgeries.

Such a change would allow doctors to prioritise more urgent cases, while potentially helping to encourage patients with more money to seek private treatment instead.

Expert Opinion
The comments from medical experts that the NHS may be forced to charge patients for treatment is extremely troubling. The national health service should always make patient health and safety the top priority and any plans to introduce fees for treatment could prevent some people from accessing the treatment they require.

“A thorough investigation into the way the NHS is funded needs to be conducted to understand the problems it is facing. It is vital that any problems identified are corrected quickly and patients reassured that they will still be able to access the treatment and care they need, when they need it. Increasing waiting times is not acceptable, as we have seen first-hand the damage that can be caused to patients who faced delays in accessing the care they required.”
Mandy Luckman, Partner