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Report calls for patients\’ charter to reform NHS – The Times

Lorraine Davidson, The Times, 10 April 2009

A leading Scottish think-tank yesterday called for GP catchment areas to be abolished and for a legally binding patients\’ charter to be introduced as part of reform of the NHS.

The report by Reform Scotland said that the NHS should become more like "insurance-based" health systems in other north European countries.

The report, entitled Patient Power, called for a new NHS constitution to set out the relationship between the health service and patients – and to clarify the role of the Scottish government. "By giving patients legal entitlements, it ensures the system is accountable to them, not government," the report says.

Geoff Mawdsley, the author of the report, said yesterday that the proposed charter went further than provisions in the SNP government\’s Patients Rights Bill because it defined entitlement to care, as happens in the Netherlands. He claimed that measures in the forthcoming legislation could be adopted to minimise court action from patients. The report argues that "insurance-based systems provide clear accountability to patients, while other countries routinely offer patients a greater choice of GP or where they are treated."

The plans were criticised by Ross Finne MSP, the Liberal Democrat health spokesman, who said that the report was a "play book on how to privatise the NHS in Scotland". He said: "It calls for patients to be given a right to opt out of the NHS and top up their healthcare with insurance payments if they can afford to do so," he said. "This will lead to a two-tier system that will be ultimately detrimental to patient care."

Jackson Carlaw, the Tory health spokesman, said that "anti-private sector rhetoric" in relation to the NHS had increased since the SNP came to power. "The time has come for the SNP to stop painting the private sector as a threat to the NHS," he said.