Patients should have the choice to purchase treatment not available on the NHS without being forced to pay for continuing treatment provided by the health service, doctors have agreed.
At the British Medical Association's annual conference yesterday (9 July 2008), delegates passed this motion, which also called for the recognition that not all treatments are available to patients on the health service equitably across the UK.
The motion also called on health departments to recognise that banning copayments denies patients treatments that may be to their benefit, and forces patients to accept "healthcare rationing".
However, the conference stopped short of demanding the introduction of copayments, and instead called on the government to set up a Royal Commission to review all the evidence and allow a wider debate to take place.
If the government were to introduce copayments, doctors said safeguards would need to be introduced to ensure this would not be a route to extend NHS user charges.
Commenting after the debate, Dr Hamish Meldrum said: "In principle, doctors believe that patients should have the choice to buy additional treatment that is not available on the NHS, without being forced to pay for all their treatment privately.
"However, they stopped short of asking for copayments to be introduced until there has been a wider debate with the profession and public and the evidence has been collected and examined."