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British Medical Association debate future fee charges on services provided by NHS

The NHS is already undergoing major changes in its core structure, but this could also mean that in a not so distant the future, patients could start paying for certain health services.

During the British Medical Association's annual conference that is currently being held in Edinburgh, doctors are debating on whether patients will have to pay fees for services the NHS can no longer afford to provide due to dwindling and inadequate budgets and an aging population.

This debate comes before the government's spending review is due to be published with Chancellor George Osborneunder pressure to make cuts and has promised to ring-fence the £110billion health budget and to 'prioritize' spending on the NHS, with £11.5billion of cuts expected for 2015-16.

This discussion is the just more writing on the wall, because back in 2008 a British Medical Association poll of 964 young GPs and hospital doctors, found 61% thought patients would have to pay for some treatment by 2017.

Gordon Matthews, a hospital consultant who is a member of the BMA's consultants committee, speaking to the Financial Times in an interview last April said:

"There has never before been a more important time for the government, the opposition, doctors and other health professionals to engage with the public, to explain the issues and seek consensus as to what priorities are for health and social care, and making explicit what can be funded from central taxation and what cannot. A publicly funded and free-at-the-point-of-delivery NHS cannot afford all available diagnostics and treatments."

"It's not my responsibility to introduce new charging systems but it's something which a future government will wish to reflect [on], unless the economy has picked up sufficiently, because we can anticipate demand for NHS services rising by about 4% to 5% per annum."

Malcolm Grant, chairman of the NHS England– has also admitted that the government will have to consider new charges for the NHS, unless the economy picks up, the deficit reduced or raise taxes, and considering the current economic climate, tax hikes would be a very unpopular move for any future government.

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