This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

Read the latest issue online

CAMHS won't see you now

GPs back call for charging patients for non-NHS care

Grassroots GPs have renewed their call for the Government to allow GP practices to charge their own patients for non-NHS treatments.

The LMCs Conference in Edinburgh demanded that practices should be able to charge their own patients for treatments that are not available on the NHS, which the GPC said NHS chiefs had previously blocked because of concerns about a public backlash over privatisation.

The conference backed the call again today, this time from City and Hackney LMC’s Dr Ben Molyneux, who argued that it was ‘detrimental to patients’ for practices not to offer certain services privately – for example, HPV jabs in patients who are not covered by the NHS and are willing to pay for them.

Dr Molyneux said: ‘We shouldn’t be sending patients off to unknown private services, they should be able to see their own GP in the comfort of their own practice.’

Dr Molyneux insisted he was ‘not being naïve’ about the risks of privatisation or ‘letting commissioners off the hook’ for not funding services.

Dr Naureen Bhatti from Tower Hamlets LMC, who was among several GPs arguing against the motion, said GPs should resist charging and campaign to get services that are clinically effective available from the NHS, and that now was ‘not the time to allow more stealth privatisation’.

However, GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey said that the only reason GPs could still not charge for these kinds of services was that NHS England ‘had put up a brick wall against it’.

Dr Vautrey told Pulse: ‘It’s because they’re fearful it will be portrayed in the way it has been in the media, as privatisation of the NHS.

‘Actually, what we’re trying to do is just expand what is already possible within the contract – so for instance, malaria treatment can be given privately and certain travel vaccines, to your own patients, but we’re restricted from giving someone who is outside the flu target groups a a flu immunisation and charging them for it – whereas the pharmacist over the road can give it.

‘Similarly, there are quite a number of minor surgical procedures that are deemed cosmetic, so removing a skin tag or other minor lesions – the practice cannot do it but has to refer to a private provider who might charge them hundreds of pounds for a very simple procedure that the practice could do quite easily if they were allowed.’

Dr Vautrey told Pulse that ‘now Conference has reaffirmed the call, we will have to revisit the issue with NHS England’.

He said: ‘We will have to put it back on our negotiating agenda and try to persuade them that it is actually a safe thing from them to do, and it is in the patients’ best interest that a practice that they trust is able to do these types of procedures.'

The motion in full

Proposed by City and Hackney LMC:

'That conference insists that as independent contractors, GPs should be permitted to provide and directly charge their registered patients for treatment not available on the NHS.'

Readers' comments (9)

  • National Hopeless Service

    Wont hold my breath. The government knows we are stupid enough to continue to do non NHS stuff for free.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Should read "GPs back call for charging patients".

    Time the gloves came off.

    They (DoH) hate us. We need to hate them back.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • X.ray has hit the nail on the head!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Nobody has stopped GPs from forming consortium/groups and delivering private medical services from another place, just like our secondary care consultant colleagues. They are not allowed to do their private practice in NHS Hospital setting, they do it outside.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I agree with all the comments so far, however I think Pradeep raises an extremely important point.Why have general practitioners not done this already? as quite clearly they could have done, there being nothing in the regulations to prevent it
    Rather than passing entirely superfluous motions,conference would have done better to investigate this bizarre and incomprehensible feature of general practice
    Why do we fail to refer to each other?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Dr Robinson, I think there are few reasons we GPs haven't come together
    1) Our mistrust in each other.
    2) Many of us prefer to stay isolated and run our little business.
    3) We traditionally did not want to share our profits hence lack of availability of partnerships when sun was shining bright on GP Land.
    4) We never looked at bigger picture and identified need for working together. We always thought this is my surgery & my patients.

    We need to evolve as landscape has changed & if we don't be ready to perish.

    Solicitors laugh at us looking at our business models. We just need to look at how they changed their way of practicing in last 20 years.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • We have to learn from European GP, Many Polish/ eastern European GP/doctors have opened their private consulting rooms here and running good business targeting their own population & do everything from USG/ CT scans, & private treatment as these patients do not want to wait in NHS queue, or simply want another quick opinion.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Indeed Pradeep all entirely true
    May I suggest half a century of the RCGP,summative assesment,half day release etc,etc has failed to introduce any semblence of teamwork into general practice.
    In this crucial regard gp educationalists have been an abject failure

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • One of the reasons we don't refer to each other is that the services often require other services. e.g. shaving off benign moles needs histopathology services. This is slightly more complex.

    However, giving private flu jabs to people who don't qualify for NHS flu jabs is perfectly reasonable, and we do tell our patients that some of the local surgeries will do them for a small fee. Ultimately it is often more convenient for them to just pop in to the chemist for it though.

    It does seem bonkers that we can give private scripts for malaria prophylaxis to our NHS patients but not flu jabs to people outside of target groups.

    Also bonkers that we can give the flu jabs outside of target groups to anyone who is NOT registered with us, but not to our own patients. In a rural area this means much more travel time.

    Oh yeah, I forgot the government doesn't know what a rural area is.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say