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

The Methodist Church has responded to the Government'sannouncements to allow National Health Service patients to buyextra medical treatment not available on the NHS with a call forclarity and a wider debate about the principles and values of auniversal health system.

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

The decision by the Government raises new questions about equalityand fairness.

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

'This decision may lead to challenging ethical questions withinour Churches and wider communities. Drugs such as Donepezil are notavailable to NHS patients with early stage Alzheimer's disease. Howdo we react to two people sitting on the pew next to each otherboth wanting this treatment, but only one is able to afford it?This raises huge ethical questions for individuals, churchcommunities and society as a whole.'