The health insurance industry is calling for the government to explore alternative means of funding healthcare, in response to The Wanless Report, which recommended healthcare should continue to be funded by general taxation, but at higher levels.
Securing Our Future Health: Taking a Long-Term View, by former NatWest Bank chief executive Derek Wanless, was commissioned last year by chancellor Gordon Brown, and will be used by the government to develop a long-term healthcare funding strategy over the coming decade.
Wanless concluded there is no evidence that any alternative financing method to the UK’s system would deliver a given quality of healthcare at a lower cost to the economy.
Dr Sheila Lawlor, director of rightwing think-tank Politeia, said: “The report is politically inspired by a leftist and socialist government which has always hated the insurance model.
“Wanless has confined himself to one ideology: that public services should be publicly funded from tax. He assumes there should be no change to public provision and that seems to be an old leftist position that doesn’t work and hasn’t worked.”
Wanless suggested that “more self-care by patients” could help reduce financial pressure on the health service. This would mean patients were encouraged to stay at home and take care of themselves instead of visiting their doctor or local hospital.
PPP healthcare welcomed the debate but criticised the NHS for not responding to patients’ individual choices, a key principle in healthcare funding, and without building levers into the system to do this, it is unlikely there will be significant improvement.
It said: “A strong independent healthcare sector is needed to complement the funding and services provided by the NHS.”
Britannic Retirement Solutions product marketing manager Peter Barnett said: “It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy that the current funding mechanism gives the lowest cost for a given quality. The report says there is a choice, but it’s more like ‘Hobson’s choice’ because people can either choose whether or not to take out health insurance.”