I see the NHS as a health service provided by the state and paid for by our taxes. The service is provided regardless of the recipient's ability to pay for the service that they receive. The definition does get more complicated but this is a simple definition and I guess that most would see the NHS as a shining example for the rest of the world. It has its faults and I have written blogs about some of those faults but the general principle is a good one. If someone needs help then it should be given to them.
There is also a Thatcherite principle which spoils the philanthropic ideals of the NHS. If anyone, e.g. a doctor, has a service that they can provide privately then they should be able to do so. This could also be defined as a liberal principle so I have no problem with accepting it even in terms of health care, as long as private health care providers do not gain any unfair advantage over other private health care providers by their connection with the NHS.
I learned from the Independent on Sunday that 'acute hospitals across England expect to rake in almost £500m this year from patients paying for treatments'. Why shouldn't an NHS Trust make money from renting out rooms and so balance their books? The answer is, of course that these hospitals no longer conform to the definition of the NHS. They have evolved a two-tier system that allows those with the ability to pay to jump queues.
The whole point about the NHS is that the need for health care transcends ability to pay. There should be excellent care for all regardless of ability to pay. If it was just a question of a room upgrade then that might be OK, but if it's a different course of treatment involved (or even treatment as opposed to no-treatment) then maybe allow it, but don't call it NHS. Make it clear that what's being provided is not NHS, even if it's on NHS premises, and make sure that the private providers are charged enough to pay for the NHS resources they're consuming.
Change the world