Tory MP and GP Phillip Lee made a striking call this morning for patients suffering from lifestyle-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes to pay for their prescriptions as part of a larger shake-up of the NHS. He was speaking as part of a series of presentations from members of the Free Enterprise Group ahead of next week's Autumn Statement on their proposals for spending cuts which would allow George Osborne to meet his target of having debt as a proportion of GDP falling by 2015/16.
Lee said that to ensure that people could continue to access care when they needed it, the NHS needed a fundamental reform. He told the audience at the Institute of Economic Affairs that the government and the public needed to recognise that the way the NHS had been set up for a generation of 'stoic' British people was now no longer viable and take steps to reform it accordingly, otherwise the health system faced what he alarmingly described as 'collapse'.
In order to encourage patients to take responsibility for their own health, as well as saving what he estimates from FOI requests to the Health Department to be around £400 million, Lee proposes removing the right to free prescriptions for those with diabetes and other similar illnesses. He also praised the Danish system of giving a patient a budget for their prescriptions, which they would have to top up themselves if they exceeded, and suggested that all GPs should dispense medicines. Insisting that this was not part of a desire to privatise the health care system or prevent it from being free at the point of access, he said: 'I just think that we have got to have an affordable system that rewards individual responsibility.'
He added: 'If you want to have doughnuts for breakfast, lunch and dinner, fine, but there's a cost.'
His suggestions for spending cuts, along with other proposals from other Tory MPs at the event - Priti Patel, Kwasi Kwarteng, David Ruffley, and Chris Skidmore - add up to what the group believes will be more than enough to enable Osborne to meet the debt target. But they would bring the Chancellor into direct collision with his Liberal Democrat colleagues, who have already resisted calls such as the one made by Kwarteng today to freeze benefits rather than uprating them in line with inflation.