A YORK mutual healthcare provider has endorsed a think tank's findings that the Government needs to "move towards a more integrated system of care".

The independent think tank ResPublica has published findings that a surge in complex chronic illnesses such as obesity, cancer and dementia, coupled with an ageing population and tight health budgets, mean that the NHS faces a potential funding gap of £19bn per annum within ten years.

It has suggested that savings of £4.5 billion could be made by moving from the current "fragmented" healthcare system towards an integrated system co-ordinated by health mutuals that cater for "whole person care". This would ensure the NHS remains free at the point of use without the need for additional taxation or charging, ResPublica said.

Benenden Health- which offers healthcare services funded by the combined contributions of more than 900,000 members - welcomed the report.

Marc Bell, chief executive of Benenden Health, said: “This report confirms what we, as a mutual healthcare provider, see every day: the NHS is being crippled by the current epidemic of lifestyle diseases and non-essential procedures. The public pays for and deserves a free national health service, but the harsh reality is that this is only now viable if a complementary healthcare provision is put in place that supports the NHS.

“As ResPublica recognises, mutual healthcare providers such as Benenden Health offer this ideal complementary provision, which would help keep the NHS free at the point of entry. The benefits of the report recommendations are significant – they give the Government the Holy Grail: a truly sustainable national health service that does not cost the Government more or involve taxing the public further.”