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'Top-up' fees issue is threat to government, warns college

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RCN general secretary Peter Carter has called for clear guidance on top-up fees following revelations that health secretary Alan Johnson is considering relaxing rules on such payments.

Patients must currently pay all their health expenses, including those normally provided free by the health service, if they choose to buy extra or ‘top-up’ treatments that are not available on the NHS.

Mr Carter warned that failure to tackle the issue could pose a threat to the government in the run-up to a general election. ‘I think this is going to hurt this government,’ he said at a fringe event on health policy at the Labour Party conference in Manchester. ‘Pandora’s box has been opened.’

Mr Carter added: ‘There are no ground rules, there is no framework. What happens if someone dies halfway through treatment? Who do you send the bill to? ‘What happens to people seeing in the press the latest miracle cure, only to find that it is not a miracle cure?

‘We need some guidance as soon as possibly because right now it is a confusing and very destructive practice,’ he said.

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