GPs demand right to charge own patients
GPs have instructed the GPC to consider a European court challenge against a contract clause that prevents them charging their own patients for private services.
LMCs said clause 483 represented a 'straightforward restraint of trade' that left GPs in an unfair position compared with consultants.
But Dr Stuart Drage, chair of the agenda committee, warned GPs there was little chance of success as the GPC had been given legal advice suggesting it would have an uphill battle to overturn the controversial clause.
Following a heated debate, LMCs also instructed the GPC to renegotiate the clause to allow GPs who have opted out to charge their patients a private fee for services provided out of hours, as well as all travel immunisations, occupational health care and any other service not commissioned locally by the NHS.
Dr Andy Paton from Devon LMC said GPs were continually told by patients that was what they wanted. He said: 'Of course we should be able to charge for consultations of a length patients want if they are willing to pay and GPs are willing to provide.'
Dr Phil McCarthy from Avon LMC said the new contract was an opportunity to clear up a 'confused and conflicting' area of general practice. He said GPs must be allowed to charge for all services not provided under the NHS.
But Dr Stewart Kay from Southwark LMC described attempts to overturn clause 483 as a 'pointless diversion'.
He said: 'Our aim should be reasonable remuneration from the state for providing high-quality services to patients – not working out innovative ways of screwing money from them. This is about greed and cash register or credit card general practice.'
Dr Kambiz Boomla, from City and East London LMC, said the clause was no different from old Red Book rules, and that GPs are already free to charge for a number of areas.