Can people afford to pay for health care? New evidence on financial protection in the United Kingdom (2018)



By Nora Cooke O’Dowd, Stephanie Kumpunen, Holly Holder
2018, xii+ 79 pages
ISBN 978 92 890 5331 0
This publication is only available online.

This review is part of a series of country-based studies generating new evidence on financial protection in European health systems. Financial protection is central to universal health coverage and a core dimension of health system performance.

Financial protection is stronger in the United Kingdom than in many other European Union countries, reflecting relatively high levels of public spending on health; population entitlement to National Health Service (NHS) care based on residence; comprehensive service coverage; and very limited use of patient charges for services covered by the NHS.

There are reasons to be concerned about access to health care and financial protection in the future. The NHS is facing exceptional financial pressure owing to public spending levels that are lower than needed, as well as cuts to social care budgets. Strategies to ration NHS care may increase the need for people to pay out of pocket. While those who can afford to do so may pay for private treatment, households already facing financial pressure may be forced to delay or forego care.

The vital and effective role the NHS plays in protecting people from financial hardship when they are ill should be safeguarded by ensuring that public spending on health is adequate to meet health needs.