11. May, 2018

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NHS charges

Christopher Chope, a Barrister and the Conservative MP for Christchurch, has proposed a private bill that would make provision for co-funding, and to extend the use of ‘co-payment’ - charges - throughout the National Health Service (NHS); and for "connected purposes."

Though there are already some charges for health services such dental treatments, eye tests and prescriptions already, experts have warned that if the bill gains assent, it would open the floodgates to charging for a range of other services including GPs appointments and minor operations.

The National Health Service (Co-Funding and CoPayment) Bill would “make provision for co-funding and for the extension of co-payment for NHS services in England” and this will be the second reading of the bill.

MPs are set to debate the proposed bill today.

Recent changes to NHS prescribing guidelines has shown that the co-payment system is far from perfect. Controversial limits to the kind of conditions for which GPs can prescribe medication. Instead, patients will be given advice on what medications to buy from the pharmacy. Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England, said: “Across the NHS our aim is to: ‘Think like a patient, act like a taxpayer’. The NHS is probably the most efficient health service in the world, but we’re determined to keep pushing further. Every pound we save from cutting waste is another pound we can then invest in better A&E care, new cancer treatments and much better mental health services.” 

John O’Connell, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance approved the changes, adding that "“It’s great news that NHS England will save a vast amount of taxpayers’ money by curbing prescriptions for basic items that are much cheaper to buy in the supermarket than they are to prescribe. Taxpayers should not be footing the bill for items like anti dandruff shampoo or athlete’s foot powder, so cutting out wasteful spending like this will mean that precious resources can be focused on frontline services. Patients too must remember that these items are not “free” – the money comes out of taxpayers’ pockets, so NHS England should be applauded for this move.”

However, someone should remind Stevens and O’Connell that everyone pays tax and national insurance. This kind of rationing is a steep and slippery slope to a health service that is no longer free at the point of delivery.

Justin Madders MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Minister, said: “Once again we see the Tories’ true colours.

“At a time when the NHS is going through the biggest funding squeeze in its history and more than four million people are waiting for treatment, Tory MPs are proposing a two-tier system where those who can afford it get treated first.

“Labour’s first priority will be to give the NHS the funding it needs to protect an NHS free at the point of use for everyone who needs it.”

Chope has previously tabled a range of other controversial bills.

He was appointed as the Parliamentary Private Secretary to Peter Brooke, the Minister of State at the Treasury in 1986, before being promoted by Margaret Thatcher to serve in her government as the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for the Environment later in the same year, where he was responsible for steering through the immensely unpopular "Community Charge" (best known as the Poll tax) legislation.

In June 2013 Chope was one of four MPs who camped outside Parliament in a move to facilitate parliamentary debate on what they called an "Alternative Queen’s Speech" – an attempt to show what a future Conservative government might deliver. 42 policies were listed including reintroduction of the death penalty and conscription, privatising the BBC, banning the burka in public places and preparation to leave the European Union. 

Chope helped to lead backbench support for the motion calling for a European Referendum. He has also been heavily involved in the use of private member's bills to achieve this aim. Chope came under fire in January 2013 for referring to some staff in the House of Commons as "servants". Parallels were drawn between this opinion and his views on the minimum wage - which he has called to be abolished.

On 28 November 2014 Chope, a private landlord, filibustered a Liberal Democrat bill with cross party support intended to make revenge evictions an offence.

In 2014 Chope along with six other Conservative Party MPs voted against the Equal Pay (Transparency) Bill which would require all companies with more than 250 employees to declare the gap in pay between the average male and average female salaries.

He came under criticism in late 2014 for repeatedly blocking a bill that would ban the use of wild animals in circus performances, justifying his actions by saying "The EU Membership Costs and Benefits bill should have been called by the clerk before the circuses bill, so I raised a point of order".

You can read Chope's latest controversial and draconian bill: The National Health Service (Co-Funding and Co-Payment) Bill here.

Private bill to introduce further charges for NHS services is due for second reading today

by Kitty S Jones