Patients would be charged £8 a day while in hospital on a proposal from a former health service boss to raise more money for the NHS.
Professor Stephen Smith is also urging ministers to charge £4-8 to help cover the costs of medical equipment patients need, such as hearing aids and walkers.
People over 60 should also start paying for their prescriptions, to help generate more revenue for an underfunded NHS that is under “unsustainable” pressure from rising demand, Smith said.
Growing public dissatisfaction with the health service and unprecedented patient expectations for GP care, ambulances and routine operations mean ministers must urgently initiate a review of the funding model of the NHS, which should include the creation of “co-payments” for certain services.
Smith, the former chairman of the East Kent Acute Hospital Trust, has set out his ideas in a new book published by think tank RadixUK. Its trustees include former Conservative health secretary Andrew Lansley and Labor MP Stephen Kinnock.
“I think the public would be willing to pay the extra cost,” said Smith, who has also served on the boards of Great Ormond Street and Imperial College Healthcare NHS trusts in London. The means test would ensure that the poor are not unfairly affected, he added.
People would have to pay a fee of £8 for each day they are in hospital receiving medical or rehabilitation treatment, up to a maximum of 28 days a year, added Smith, who said his idea was based on the system in Germany, where patients are charged €10 a night.
More money could also be raised for the NHS through financial penalties for abusing the NHS by repeatedly missing appointments, a mortgaged tax to bring extra income to the NHS and social care, and tax breaks for high earners who take out private medical insurance.
However, Dr John Puntis, co-chairman of campaign group Keep Our NHS Public, accused Smith of advancing ‘wacky ideas’ and ‘zombie politics’ which would end the basis on which the service has operated since its inception. creation in 1948, including that it is paid by the general tax.
“Making people pay part of the cost of a hospital stay would be a fundamental departure from the founding principles of the NHS and would show that the long-standing consensus on a tax-funded public service model of healthcare has been truly abandoned,” Puntis said.
The government should instead generate more money for the NHS through capital gains tax, corporation tax and the taxation of private wealth, financial speculation and tax evasion, he added.
Smith’s insights come days after the head of the Royal College of GPs warned that family doctor services were in such demand that patients may have to start paying for them, in the same way that most already pay to see a dentist.
Professor Martin Marshall said: “We have found ourselves in a place where the safety net is very insufficient [dental] service for those who cannot afford to pay and the majority of people pay for their dental care. Could general medicine go in this direction? It could do it.
Axel Heitmueller, senior fellow at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change and author of a recent report on the NHS, warned against user fees. They “are in effect a regressive tax” that is expensive to operate, deters poor people from seeking treatment and does not reduce demand for medical help, he said.
Politicians risk facing a ‘high political price for little real gain’ by bringing charges due to resentment from voters, most of whom believe higher taxes are the best way to invest larger sums in the NHS .
The Department of Health and Social Affairs declined to comment.