A GP and prominent political campaigner has called for the chief executive of Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust to resign after she suggested the NHS may have to start charging patients for its services.
Speaking on Radio Four last week, the trust’s CEO Susan Acott questioned the core NHS principle of universal healthcare free at the point of use after it was revealed the health service overspent its budget by a record £2.45 billion in 2015-16.
But Dr Paul Hobday, who has more than 30 years’ experience as a GP in Kent, said: “She should resign. We need managers who will whistleblow and stand up to the government.
“She is speaking out of line, when she is supposed to be managing the health service. Managers should be fighting for more resources from central taxation.”
Dr Hobday, who is a member of the National Health Action Party, believes the government wishes to replace the NHS with a US-style insurance-based system, and he accused CEOs such as Ms Acott of ‘softening up’ the public to eventual privatisation.
“A lot of CEOs are in place because they have toed the government line,” he said. “Those who are in key positions are the ones who are keen to implement the government’s plans. They are in post to carry out government policy, but on the other hand the health secretary is saying people should whistleblow. These are the people who should be whistleblowing.
“It is a political choice, health, and we do not overspend. We are spending less than many other developed countries - even Greece.
“I think the whole of the general public should be standing up and saying ‘why are the government not prepared to spend a reasonable amount on healthcare?’”
Dr Hobday claimed higher taxes would not necessarily have to be introduced to close the funding gap and pointed out that the NHS wastes money by tendering contracts to private providers.
“Between five and ten billion pounds is wasted on running the market. By abolishing the market they could put the extra money into front-line services,” he said.
“It is a waste of money running a competitive system - and by asking us to consider charging patients, she is asking for the abolition of the NHS.”
Dartford MP Gareth Johnson commented: “I have no difficulty with discussing NHS funding issues to see where improvements can be made but we must never get to the stage where people are unwilling to seek medical treatment because they cannot afford it.
“The strength of the NHS is the principle of being free at the point of delivery and that should not change. The NHS ensures there is no need for sick people to sit at home as they can’t afford to be ill.”