28th March 2002

For immediate release

NHS charging a confusing mishmash says new report from patients watchdog

A Tax on Illness?, a new report launched today by the Association of Community Health Councils (ACHCEW), the statutory national representative of the public in the NHS, examines the legal basis, history and impact of NHS charges. The report provides a comprehensive overview of the NHSs current charging regime, arguing that major change is necessary if health disadvantage is to be tackled.

Marion Chester ACHCEW legal officer and one of the reports authors commented:

The regulations governing NHS charges are complex and difficult for patients and the public to understand. All too often they are unsure of how their charges are calculated or why they are being charged. Action must be taken to simplify this confusing mishmash of rules.

There are major inconsistencies right across the system, ranging from widespread variation in the interpretation of the rules, to the exemption of some illnesses but not others. We would like to see NHS charges got rid of altogether as the evidence shows that it decreases uptake of necessary treatments. If we cant get rid of charging in the NHS we can at least attempt to make it both transparent and fair.

The report urges the government to:

Peter Walsh, Director of ACHCEW commented:

This is a very important report. In an ideal world, we would like to see an end to all charging for NHS treatment. At the very least, patients must be able to expect a more consistent, fair and transparent system. We hope that the report will act as the catalyst to bring about changes for the benefit of all NHS patients. We expect that this will be a cause around which there will be a broad coalition of organisations representing patients' and consumers' interests.


Copies of the report are available priced 7.50 from the Association of Community Health Councils. Please telephone Estelle Kiss on 020 7609 8405 for ordering information.


For further information please contact: Murray Benham on - 020 7609 8138

email: murray.benham@achcew.org.uk

website: www.achcew.org.uk

Notes to Editors