Fears have been raised amidst discussions to potentially start charging patients across south Warwickshire for health aids such as walking sticks, crutches and neck braces.
Members of South Warwickshire Clinical Commissioning Group (SWCCG), which is responsible for decisions on spending on healthcare in the area, have discussed the possibility of introducing charges for orthotics equipment - although the group stresses that no decisions have been made as yet.
Lynette Kelly, the Labour prospective parliamentary candidate for Warwick and Leamington, has urged the group to not go down this route. She said: “It is a disgrace that the SWCCG should even consider becoming the first provider of NHS care in the country to look seriously into introducing such charges. The NHS should not abandon the key principle upon which it was founded that it is free at the point of use.
“The NHS faces financial challenges, but protecting front-line services has to be the top priority.”
A spokeswoman for the SWCCG said: “At our latest patient and public participation group, one of our discussions was about how to improve quality and value for money of our orthotics service.
“A number of avenues were discussed, in particular helpful comments about the equipment returns process and whether charging for equipment should be considered. This has not been discussed further and no proposals exist to develop this further.”
Monica Fletcher, chairman of the New Dispensary Practice in Warwick, who attended the patient and public participation group, said: “It was appropriate and important that this issue was discussed openly with patient representatives and that the CCG is showing great maturity in raising this with us.
“The item in question was part of a broader debate about optimal use of limited NHS resources. I felt the discussion that took place was balanced.”