Coventry is set to become the first British city to introduce a universal health insurance scheme.
The scheme will see all public and private employers offering universal coverage to all employees from the age of 25.
It will be funded through tax breaks on the incomes of people earning over £30,000.
Labour’s shadow health minister, John Healey, welcomed the move as a positive step forward in tackling the problem of healthcare inequality.
“This is an important step in addressing inequality in our health system and in tackling disparities in access to care,” he said.
Mr Healey said it would help “to improve access to the NHS in Coventry”.
He added that the plan was a step in the right direction, with the government pledging to make up to £200m available to improve the system.
While Mr Healey welcomed the announcement of universal coverage, he was concerned about how it would work in practice.
Currently, the NHS is run by two separate councils, one for primary care and the other for specialist services.
Under the plans, the council would be given the power to select a specific service provider to cover a certain percentage of its workforce.
This could mean a local doctor being selected over a GP or hospital for a GP visit, or an ambulance company being chosen over a paramedic.
He said the plan would mean patients would be able to access care across a wide range of providers, including specialist doctors, specialists in obstetrics, surgery, nursing, GP, surgery and orthopaedic services.
He added: “I am worried that the NHS will be left with too many providers and too few services available for the NHS to serve the needs of patients.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn welcomed the plan, saying it would make Coventry “a world-class healthcare system”.
“Our city is home to one of the most innovative medical systems in the world and is already the envy of the country,” he tweeted.
I hope Coventry City Council will invest in its own specialist doctors.
#universalcoverage pic.twitter.com/8lZy6gjK6p— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) April 18, 2021The announcement of the plan comes amid rising concern about the increasing number of people being admitted to hospital due to preventable diseases.
A survey by the University of Cambridge last month found that the number of emergency admissions was rising in the UK, and was predicted to increase by 3.3% over the next two years.
And there have been fears that the current government could not meet the cost of the crisis.