Union says health secretary has questions to answer over future of NHS

Tim Lezard

NHS logoUnite is calling on health secretary Jeremy Hunt to deny reports that the NHS will soon be forced to charge patients for care.

The call follows the revelations in yesterday’s Financial Times that the most powerful figure in the NHS in England, Malcolm Grant, has warned that the failing economy could end the NHS’ free-at-the-point of use commitment to patients and instead usher in charges for NHS services

The union says that these fly in the face of the prime minister’s many promises that the NHS was ‘safe in his hands’.

Unite fears that the coalition’s NHS policies, including the biggest reorganisation in the service’s history coupled with multi-billion pound funding squeeze, will break the NHS so paving the way for a new marketised health service where, for example, paying up to £3,250 for a cataract operation is the new normal.

Unite is calling on Jeremy Hunt to come clean with the public and MPs about the potential for NHS user charges at today’s health questions in the House of Commons.

Rachael Maskell, Unite head of health, said: “Yesterday’s warning of a future of NHS user charges comes from the most powerful figure in the NHS so we must take this very seriously. The coalition’s disastrous economic policy, the health funding squeeze and destructive reorganisation of the NHS will eventually destroy it.

“Aneurin Bevan put an end to the suffering of millions of Britons, too afraid to fall sick because of the cost of medical treatment. He created the NHS with its principle of free healthcare based on need, not the ability to pay.  65 years of the greatest social benefit of any nation is now at risk.

“It is clear now that the NHS is far from safe in David Cameron’s hands.

“Jeremy Hunt must come clean at today’s health questions in the Commons and deny that a future of NHS user charges is on the cards. Nothing short of a categorical public denial and a recommitment to the `free at the point of use’ principle will do.”

The NHS celebrates its 65 birthday on 5 July.  But with the 1 April reorganisation, 10 per cent of GP surgeries are now run by private profit making companies.   Unite has been fighting to protect the NHS from being transformed from a public social support system into a competitive market as a result of the rapidly accelerating privatisation of the service under this government.

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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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