Half of the public believe that in 10 years time they will have to pay towards some NHS services they need as a patient, according to new research published by the British Medical Association (BMA).
The BMA commissioned researchers to survey members of the public about the effectiveness of changes to the NHS over the past decade and to seek their views on commercial companies providing healthcare to NHS patients and on future funding of the NHS.
Half of the 1,000+ general public interviewed said that in 10 years time they expect to make a contribution toward NHS services they may need as a patient. Nine in 10 respondents agree or strongly agree that the NHS should continue to be funded from UK taxes and remain free at the point of use.
Dr Hamish Meldrum, Chairman of BMA Council, says: "Although the public strongly supports the principles of the NHS and wishes to preserve it as a tax-funded system, they are clearly worried about the future funding of the health service and the government's direction of travel on health policy. It is possible that the English government's increasing use of the commercial sector in providing NHS services is fuelling patients' concerns that the NHS will begin to charge for some care in the future.
"The public may also fear that with rising drug and treatment costs, advances in medical technology and increasing demand for services, the NHS will no longer be able to afford a completely comprehensive health service.
"The BMA has long argued for the need for a fully-informed public, professional and political debate about what the NHS can provide, given that there will always be finite financial resources and the need for this debate is long overdue. It would be a travesty if, by default, charges were introduced, destroying the ethos of a universal and equitable healthcare system that is valued by patients and admired across the world.
"The government should initiate that debate and also take steps to reassure the public that it intends to maintain a tax-funded NHS, not just for the next 10 years, but for the foreseeable future."
"Absolutely yes. This country is the envy of the world and we are all assured that healthcare is available regardless of the ability to pay. This should remain so and it demonstrates a civilised and caring society." - Patricia Amis, Newcastle Upon Tyne