Proposals to issue yearly statements on people’s individual NHS healthcare costs have been voted down by MPs.
Conservative and qualified GP Dr Phillip Lee put forward the plans in the Commons, arguing it was “time to tell it as it is, not as we would wish it to be”.
The MP for Bracknell asked that leave be given to bring in a bill to require the Secretary of State to instruct general practices to issue annually to each person eligible for care provided by the National Health Service an itemised account of the cost of his or her healthcare in the preceding 12 months.
But the idea was opposed by fellow Conservative MP Anne Main (St Albans) who argued it would be “potentially profoundly divisive”.
Dr Lee’s Annual Statements of Healthcare Costs Bill was subsequently rejected by 176 votes to 81, a majority of 95.
He argued that healthcare costs driven upwards by an “inexorable” increase in patient demand had reached a “tipping point”.
He acknowledged that advocates of change, such as himself, would face “professional and personal vilification” but added: “Where is the implicit incentive to look after oneself in the current system? It is not there.”
He said: “The challenge facing the NHS is not one of supply. The demands being placed on it because of ageing, obesity and changes in health seeking behaviour mean that governments of all political colours urgently need to bring forward plans that are truly sustainable in the longer term.”
An itemised account would, he argued, lead to people being more receptive to future NHS changes and the knowledge would be “empowering”.
The running costs, he said, “should be minimal”, estimated at being 50p per patient per year.
Addressing suggestions that it would upset some patients, including the frail and elderly, that it might be distressing and lead to avoidance of healthcare, he said: “All I can say to that concern is that we can’t all be young all of the time. So when would be the right time to introduce this policy?
“Those who are young now need to know how much they are going to cost when they are old. Why should the elderly benefit from a system that is unlikely to be there for the young when they need it?
“To be blunt, it is time to tell it as it is, not as we would wish it to be. Tough politics, yes. Morally and politically right, yes to both.”