Scottish patients should pay to stay in hospital and for each visit they make to see a doctor, a senior adviser to the Scottish Parliament has said. The Scottish Parliament controls the budget for Scottish hospitals. Like counterparts in England and Wales, it needs to save money.
In a report to Scottish MPs, Professor David Bell, adviser to Holyrood's finance committee, says ministers should consider charging hospital fees of up to £20 per visit, to raise as much as £300 million a year for the NHS in Scotland. In his new report, he says the situation is so grave ministers need to look further than areas already identified for savings. He recommends Scotland follows the Swedish example: user charges in its health service provide about 3 per cent of the total health budget, "Hotel charges for hospital stays and other charges in Sweden provide what would be the equivalent of £300m to the Scottish health budget." If Scotland followed Sweden's lead, patients would pay between £5 and £20 for a visit to a doctor or a stay in hospital.
Private health insurance and health cash insurance policies are not designed to pay for these suggested charges, although inexact wording on some policies could be interpreted as doing so. If these charges become a reality in Scotland, insurers will have to make it clear whether or not they do cover these charges.