The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) will have to change dramatically to survive the impact of the economic downturn, according to a new report by an independent think-tank.

The Social Market Foundation (SMF) said that the reduction in spending will be a serious challenge in years to come but there was great potential for it to get better value for money.

The ‘From Feast to Famine: Reforming the NHS for an age of austerity’ report said that the charging system needs to be reformed and that charging offers the NHS the best chance of making people think about how to ration their own use of precious health resources.

It also recommends that GPs should begin to charge £20 for an appointment, except those receving tax exemptions, so that NHS services are called for only when absolutely necessary.

Other recommendations by the SMF include a reduction in national targets and the formation of single body to regulate commissioners.