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NHS funding crisis: Boss warns of £75-a-night charge for a hospital bed

NHS Confederation boss Rob Webster says the financial crisis will mean patients having to pay for ‘accommodation’

The Independent reports:- The NHS may have to start charging patients for the “hotel costs” of their hospital stay if the health service’s looming financial crisis is not addressed, senior health service managers have warned.

Hospital bosses will need to “think the unthinkable” if future NHS funding fails to keep up with patient demand, said Rob Webster, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which speaks on behalf of all health service commissioners and providers.

“If the NHS cannot afford to fund everything, then it will need to make tough choices about what it does fund,” he told The Independent.

“Do we think about increasing our tolerance for longer wait [for care], or do we say ‘NHS funding is only for the health aspects of care and treatment’, which means patients being asked to cover their hotel costs for bed and board?” NHS managers may also have to raise the thresholds at which some minor conditions are considered for surgery, Mr Webster added.

Although detailed plans on charging patients for “bed and board” have not been drawn up, another senior NHS source suggested the fees could be means-tested, and set at around £75 per night.

Any such move would mark a major departure from the founding principles of the NHS, and would likely require authorisation from the Department of Health. However, Mr Webster said, if funding did not keep up with patient demand, “unpalatable” changes would be unavoidable.