The unqualified success of hospital parking schemes which raise around £200m a year have prompted NHS trusts to look into other profit-making ideas. In 2016 several hospitals will try out an Entrance Fee system which could prove even more lucrative.
The hospitals will initially charge £10 for a day ticket to gain access to their buildings, but as the attendance on a particular day increases towards capacity, the price will increase. Patients will be able to buy the tickets on-line or from machines at the entrances, and season tickets will be available for the very sick.
It is thought that the move is partly being introduced to combat the 'sneaky sick' who attend hospital but avoid paying the parking fees by walking or going by bus.
Health minister Jeremy Hunt says that the move does not conflict with the ethos of the NHS. "Once inside the buildings, access to medical services will be completely free. Clever service users will realise they can combine several appointments into one day and make the most of their ticket."
When asked whether emergency patients will be expected to pay the higher ticket fees because they will not be able to make an appointment in advance, he said that A&E departments would work slightly differently and that their tickets would be made available on LastMinute.com. However, he also pointed out that there are far fewer A&E departments nowadays, so it shouldn't be an issue.
He concluded by saying that ancillary charges were essential for the future of the health service. "Like hospital parking charges, it may seem at first as though we are taxing the sick, but the truth of the matter is that this money will be used to radically improve the lives of literally hundreds of shareholders in the new NHS."