At the end of their annual conference in June the British Medical Association (BMA) introduced the results of a recent questionnaire. According to this poll, the British public does not proceed on the assumption that the National Health Service (NHS) will remain tax financed. In fact nearly 60 per cent of the people think they will have to pay for several services. But nine in ten respondents (93%) agree or strongly agree that the NHS should continue to be funded from UK taxes and remain free at the point of use.
The BMA commissioned researchers, Hamilton Lock, 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.
Even nearly the half of the interviewed people (42%) agree or strongly agree that changes to the NHS in the past ten years have succeeded in making the NHS better for patients, there is also a group over a third (36%) that disagree or strongly disagree.
However, asked for the government’s policy encouraging commercial companies to provide NHS healthcare to patients, just over the half oppose these activities. And two in three (58%) disagree with commercial companies making a profit (for shareholders) from providing NHS care.
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 poll also showed that two-thirds of NHS patients would be willing to travel long distances for major surgery if it gave them the opportunity to avoid waiting for treatment, and that a majority no longer want the NHS to be the monopoly provider of healthcare. It found 51% thought the service to NHS patients would improve if there were a mix of providers, including private hospitals.
"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 health care system that is valued by patients and admired across the world”, Meldrum said.
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