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At the heart of general practice since 1960

BMA floats patient charges

A radical plan to limit patients to a set number of free GP consultations each year, after which they would have to pay, has been floated in a controversial BMA paper.

The idea is one of a set of proposals devised to cut GP workload, referred by the BMA council to its patient liaison group last week.

Bristol GP and BMA council member Dr Judith Langfield, who drafted the paper, said the option would be a last resort, but would act as a disincentive for young people who abuse the system. 'The younger generation have never had to pay for the NHS and are abusing the system left, right and centre,' she told Pulse.

'One chap asked me "what is the NHS?". Some people are totally impervious to health messages. They are

using out-of-hours as a 24-hour service and it's putting

a huge strain on resources.'

She likened the idea to a scheme run by vehicle breakdown firm RAC in which customers have to pay extra once they have used the service more than five times in a year.

The paper also suggests sanctions could be imposed on patients who repeatedly misuse GP services, to help change their behaviour.

GPC deputy-chair Dr Ham- ish Meldrum said there was little evidence that charging patients for consultations would work and the move could end up stopping patients who need care from seeking it.

'There is also the practical problem of GPs collecting money; a lot say they wouldn't want to do this,' he added.

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