Nav: Home

Private top-up insurance could help pay for the NHS, argues expert

October 12, 2016

Private top-up insurance could help prevent the declining healthcare standards in the NHS, argues Christopher Smallwood, an economist and former chair of Kingston Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, and St George's University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

"It's hardly controversial to suggest that standards of healthcare in the NHS are declining," he writes in The BMJ today, and points to long waiting times, unprecedented staff shortages, and the 85% of hospital trusts in deficit.

"The principal cause of this lamentable state of affairs is unquestionably under financing of the system," he argues. "The NHS will not be adequately financed as long as it relies exclusively on tax revenues."

He says "lessons can be learnt from some other European countries." In the French model, for example, mainstream healthcare is mainly financed from public funds, but the proportion of treatment costs covered would vary depending on the service provided.

Treatment for "catastrophic events" would be paid for by the state, with more minor treatments requiring a contribution from individuals.

The government could negotiate with insurance companies the premiums chargeable to provide cover for this menu of charges, as in Switzerland and the Netherlands. This could also be for treatments which the NHS is likely to withdraw. "Without such a scheme, poorer people may lose access to these treatments," he warns.

A French style scheme would be affordable for most people. The premiums would be lower than for private insurance at present because the bulk of costs would remain covered by the state.

"People on low incomes would be treated for free, with better-off people making contributions well within their means," he says.

"We're rich enough to drop the 'free at the point of use' principle for the pragmatic 'no one should be denied the healthcare they need for financial reasons.'"

Everyone would receive the care they needed, he concludes.

On the other hand, David Wrigley, a GP and deputy chair of BMA Council, says that private top up insurance schemes are common in the United States, which means those with the ability to pay can receive high standard care, whereas those who cannot afford extra payments receive care of a lower quality.

"We should be working hard to ensure that everyone has equal access to all the care they need," he argues. "This is why the model of the NHS from 1948 onwards has been the envy of the world."

He blames the current state of the NHS "firmly at the door of our politicians," who have enabled talk of 'top-up insurance' as the answer to the NHS's woes.

"Politicians could decide to fund the NHS adequately if they were to end their obsession with cutting public services. Governments can borrow at all-time low interest rates, and investment in healthcare has been proved good for the economy," he explains.

He calls for more investment to be made into front line staff, and to end the exorbitant £2bn a year interest payments for private finance initiatives that could be spent on caring for patients.

Introduction of private top up insurance "would be a sad day for patients, and the NHS as envisaged--free for all at point of need--will be gone," he concludes.


Related Healthcare Articles:

Mitochondrial disease has a disproportionate healthcare burden in US
Mitochondrial diseases are a diverse group of disorders caused by mutated genes that impair energy production in a patient's cells, often with severe effects.
Healthcare providers should individualize patient education
Health information should be tailored to a patient's ability to understand health concepts and keep them motivated to maintain long-term changes.
High prevalence of CRE in Washington, D.C. healthcare facilities
Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), a family of highly pathogenic antibiotic-resistant organisms, are endemic across Washington, D.C. healthcare facilities, with 5.2 percent of inpatients testing positive for the bacteria, according to new research published online today in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology, the journal of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America.
Better, cheaper healthcare with dry blood samples
A drop of blood on filter paper, allowed to dry and stored for future diagnostic purposes -- considerably easier than the present-day, resource-consuming method using frozen blood samples in plastic tubes.
Undetected Ebola infection in international healthcare workers very unlikely
Undiagnosed Ebola virus infection was probably very rare in international workers who were deployed during the 2013-2015 outbreak of the virus in West Africa, despite mild and asymptomatic cases of Ebola being known to occur, according to new research led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
Can we put a price on healthcare innovation in cancer?
Is there evidence that the money spent on innovation 'for the cure' actually benefits cancer patients?
Leaders in Healthcare
Join aspiring leaders to address some of the biggest issues facing healthcare leadership and management in the UK, affecting the professional workforce as well as the population.
New study: Estimated burden of healthcare-associated infections
A study published today by PLOS Medicine, estimates the combined burden of six healthcare-associated infections as being higher than that of diseases such as influenza, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis together.
Healthcare corruption taken to task by technology, study shows
Mobile phone technology could help to beat bad practices in healthcare delivery, research led by the University of Edinburgh suggests.
Improving LGBT healthcare for military veterans
The U.S. Veterans Health Administration (VHA), which is likely the largest provider of LGBT healthcare in the world, is implementing various system-wide changes aimed at improving LGBT care, including transgender e-consultations to aid interdisciplinary providers and the addition of a self-identified gender identity field to all veteran record systems.

Related Healthcare Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#SB2 2019 Science Birthday Minisode: Mary Golda Ross
Our second annual Science Birthday is here, and this year we celebrate the wonderful Mary Golda Ross, born 9 August 1908. She died in 2008 at age 99, but left a lasting mark on the science of rocketry and space exploration as an early woman in engineering, and one of the first Native Americans in engineering. Join Rachelle and Bethany for this very special birthday minisode celebrating Mary and her achievements. Thanks to our Patreons who make this show possible! Read more about Mary G. Ross: Interview with Mary Ross on Lash Publications International, by Laurel Sheppard Meet Mary Golda...