The Archbishop of York has issued a serious warning about commercial pressures within the National Health Service under the government's proposed changes to the way the NHS works.
Dr John Sentamu outlined his views on health care following a meeting of the symposium that bears his name.
He called for a national debate on the issue as parliament debates the controversial Health and Social Care Bill - which has attracted widespread criticism and opposition from professionals and patients alike.
Government minders are now seriously concerned that Andrew Lansley's health reforms could be killed off for good if a crucial vote in the House of Lords goes against them this coming week.
"We must never allow health provision in this country to become exclusive. Decent healthcare should not solely be the preserve of those that can afford to purchase it," the archbishop, who is the second most senior post holder in the established Church of England, declared.
"Whilst we may strive to deliver value for money, we cannot allow care to be market-led or commercialised to the point where patient safety is put at risk," he continued.
"We all want to see investment spent appropriately to provide the best care possible to as many people as possible," he said. "We all want to see a system that is compassionate and responsive. The challenge is how do we achieve that?"
"The NHS was born out of a long-held belief that good healthcare should be available to all, regardless of wealth. I have to say that I am extremely grateful that these principles remain in place to this day," Dr Sentamu noted.
"Whilst it is rarely popular for a public figure to sing the praises of the principles of taxation policy, I am always happy to say that if you want better public services then you have to be prepared to put in the investment to ensure that they are properly funded.
"It seems only right to me that those that earn more should therefore contribute more to help nurture the common good. It is not about generosity of the pocket, nor about generosity of spirit, it is about fairness or equity," the archbishop said.
* The full speech can be read here: http://www.archbishopofyork.org/articles.php/2200/archbishop-of-york-spe...