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Political views of doctors in the UK: a cross-sectional study
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  • Published on:
    Response to Question on Charging for NHS care
    • Neal Russell, Paediatric Registrar St George's University
    • Other Contributors:
      • Rob Verrecchia, Public Health Registrar
      • Jessica Potter, Respiratory Registrar

    We congratulate the authors on this timely and interesting study: ‘Political views of doctors in the UK: a cross-sectional study’ [1]. We address Question 12, asking whether doctors agree that ‘Patients should be charged for non-urgent care if they are not eligible for free NHS treatment’.
    The authors correctly state that agreement does not mean support for current NHS charging regulations, not least because the most recent amendments in England were introduced after this questionnaire (October 2017 [2]), however we remain concerned about potential misinterpretation, and suggest aspects of charging regulations where doctors’ opinions could be further explored.
    Firstly, the question, which understandably echoes government policy language on charging, is similar to asking ‘Should people have to pay for things that are not free?’ without addressing complexity of eligibility, and the fact that some people living in the UK have lost their eligibility with recent regulations. An assessment of opinions would require measuring knowledge of charging and its relationship with immigration enforcement, as well as evaluating acceptance of the immigration system itself, as this now determines eligibility. Windrush patients being denied NHS treatment highlighted the complexity of this issue [3].
    Secondly, doctors’ opinions on measures which penalise and threaten patients if they seek care, such as linking unpaid NHS debt to immigration enforcement [4], and NHS data shar...

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    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.