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Insurance is answer to ailing system

Paying for healthcare in the UK obliquely through taxation does not provide a sufficient inc-entive to make consumers act responsibly.

I applaud the Government&#39s efforts to improve the NHS but we also support the Doctors For Reform for challenging the notion that NHS improvement simply requires bigger doses of the same medicine.

It may be a worthwhile aspiration but free healthcare is not a fundamental right. It is apparent that the emphasis on trying to make healthcare free for everyone can easily obscure the reality that with “rights” come responsibilities.

Those who argue more for rights might be satisfied with a simple invoice given to a patient stating the cost of treatment that the Government picked up on the individual&#39s behalf. At the other end of the spectrum, those that argue for responsibility might like to see the patient paying for most of the care themselves.

Both extremes have limitations, the first creating an exp-ensive paper factory, the latter excluding those without sufficient financial reserves. We believe that a form of insurance offers a suitable middle ground and we see no reason why a welfare system should not benefit from the efficiencies learnt from a competitive market.

Shared costs, co-payment, even to a certain extent, the excess system of traditional insurers, have merits in obligating the customer to appreciate the costs of care. Insurance companies should not hesitate to offer their private market experience to the public domain, nor should the Government baulk at looking for market solutions.

A healthcare system should not simply be a means of dem-onstrating one&#39s ideological or political beliefs. It is about providing a system that offers appropriate medical care in a sustainable way.

At a time when many people in this country do not believe that the NHS can or will del-iver a satisfactory standard of healthcare in its current form, it is time for a fundamental rethink, to which the insurance market has much to contribute.

Dr Thom Van Every is chief medical officer at Patient Choice

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