Church calls for wider debate on NHS following Government top-up decision

The Methodist Church has responded to the Government's announcements to allow National Health Service patients to buy extra medical treatment not available on the NHS with a call for clarity and a wider debate about the principles and values of a universal health system.

The NHS has an enviable history of providing state of the art healthcare to all, free at the point of delivery, and regardless of gender, race age or ability to pay.

The decision by the Government raises new questions about equality and fairness.

Paul Morrison, Public Issues Policy Adviser for the Methodist Church, said: 'While this announcement is welcome news for some, it increases the potential of developing a two-tier healthcare system in the UK. I am concerned that without Government commitment and vigilance we will wake up some day in the future in a country with a first class health care system for those who can afford it and an economy class system for those who can't.

'This decision may lead to challenging ethical questions within our Churches and wider communities. Drugs such as Donepezil are not available to NHS patients with early stage Alzheimer's disease. How do we react to two people sitting on the pew next to each other both wanting this treatment, but only one is able to afford it? This raises huge ethical questions for individuals, church communities and society as a whole.'

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