Making patients pay
The UK NHS is supposed to be free. Christopher Hands reports on hospitals' hidden costs
The British public does not like the idea of paying for its health care. The government recognises this, and ministers throughout government repeatedly insist that the NHS will remain “free at the point of use,” “free at the point of care,” and “free at the point of need.” Patients are nevertheless charged for some services, and many of these charges are deeply unpopular.
Richard Lewis, Welsh secretary for the BMA recently described charges for car parking at Welsh hospitals as a “tax on the sick.” In a statement issued on 27 February he called the ethics of the charges into question: “Welsh hospital car parking charges are a tax on the sickest patients and their relatives. The most ill section of the population has to visit hospital more frequently than those who are healthier, and it is often these very ill people who, because of their illness, are the least