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Should NHS Reform Its ‘Charge System?

Last week, a body of leading public health experts said that NHS should consider billing patients for ineffective treatments and drop all prescription charges//. Patients should contribute towards the cost of some routine operations – they said.

Dr. Tim Crayford, president of the Association of Directors of Public Health believes that the spiraling health costs had to be controlled and people should help pay for certain types of non-emergency surgeries like tonsil removal, hysterectomies, insertion of grommets, surgery for benign moles, varicose veins procedures, carpel tunnel surgery for sore wrists and homeopathy.

Dr. Crayford also speculated about the feasibility of allowing more serious procedures, such as cataract surgery and hip replacement operations, to remain free in all cases. But he added that the cataract or hip replacement surgeries, too early in the progression of the disease could be added to the list.

The association argued that their idea is not so radical as some NHS patients already pay for dental work and prescriptions. It said that the rising demands on the NHS as more treatments become available will lead to more rationing and that charges for minor surgery would help keep that demand in check.

The association is calling for a debate on issues such as this to allow the public to decide how the NHS's limited resources are spent. In the end it will be the public, which should decide what the NHS does.

However, the ministers may oppose the call because it would undermine the idea that the NHS is free at the point of use.

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