Recently I have received several e-mails on this topical issue. Please see the question and answer response below:
Dear Mr Walkington,
Last week, the head of the British Medical Association warned that after the election patients could be charged for basic NHS services.Will you commit to keeping the NHS free at the point of use?
It was a Liberal MP, William Beveridge, who set the blueprint for the NHS after the War.
He made it a founding principle that patients should not have to pay to use the NHS. At one stroke he released the British population from the fear of falling ill and that is why we so rightly value and love our NHS.
Since then of course some charges have been introduced, for instance dental care and prescriptions and I do not think that will change. Nevertheless the fundamental principle is that the NHS is and should remain free for anyone who needs health care. I will always support this principle and so will my Party.
However I think it is also important to keep politics out of the day to day running of the NHS and listen to the professionals who run the NHS. The Liberal Democrats have listened to Simon Stevens the Chief Executive of NHS England who has asked the public to find an additional £8 billion pounds as a down payment to enable him to find efficiency savings of £22 billion by 2020. We were the first party to commit to find this funding, Labour have refused to match our promise, and the Conservatives have promised it without saying where the money will come from except by massive welfare cuts.
The £22 billion efficiency savings will only be achieved by innovations such as further integration between health and social services and the restructuring of some services.
I will fight to make sure that any such restructuring brings advantages to the people of St Albans by, for example, bringing an Urgent Care Centre to the City Hospital (far better than the current Minor Injuries Unit), maximizing the number of outpatient clinics at the St Albans site and making sure it becomes a community hub integrated with the Primary Care services provided by local GPs.
I hope this reassures you – I’m certainly not in the business of destroying this great institution.