Fund NHS properly or charge for hospital beds says senior executive
Nightly fee of £75 mooted as head of NHS Confederation says tough choices ahead with funding not meeting demand.
Hospital patients could be asked to pay for their bed and board if funding does not match increasing demand, a senior health service manager has said.
Rob Webster, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents NHS commissioners and providers, said the health service would have to make “tough choices”.
Plans to charge patients for accommodation had not been drawn up, said Webster, but the Independent quoted an unnamed source suggesting the fee could be £75 a night.
Webster told the paper: “If the NHS cannot afford to fund everything then it will need to make tough choices about what it does fund.
“Do we think about increasing our tolerance for longer wait (for care), or do we say NHS funding is only for the health aspects of care and treatment, which means patients being asked to cover their hotel costs for bed and board?
“Overall funding allocation for health and social care is a political choice. Flat funding in real terms is a choice. Funding that doesn’t match an increase in demand is a choice. One-off lumps of money, which gets newspaper headlines but don’t allow health service leaders to plan effectively, are a choice.”
A Department of Health spokesman denied plans to charge for hospital stays and told the paper: “The NHS will remain free at the point of use.
“We know that with an ageing population there’s more pressure on the NHS, which is why we’ve increased the budget by £12.7bn over this parliament and are investing in community services to keep people living healthier at home for longer.”
It comes after a cohort of influential health bodies issued an open letter to the leaders of all three main parties stating the NHS was at “breaking point”.
The Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats focused on the NHS and its funding during their respective party conferences but the British Medical Association and the Royal College of GPs, among others, said a funding crisis threatened the core tenet of the public health service being free at the point of access.
“The NHS and our social care services are at breaking point and things cannot go on like this. An NHS deficit of £30 billion is predicted by 2020 – a funding black hole that must be filled,” the letter said.