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Has Reid opened doors to patient charging scheme?

Until recently the NHS has been free at the point of delivery or free at the point of access. Health Secretary John Reid has now stated this is no longer the case and that the NHS is free at the point of need. Does this mean if a service is not needed there should be a charge if the patient wants that service?

If we take a few examples you can see that much of what we do is want and not need.

·Patients do not need routine appointments outside nine to five but it is obviously more convenient for many to have an earlier or later appointment, so can we now charge for these appointments?

·Many home visits, particularly to residential homes, are not based on need but on the fact it's more convenient for the home for the GP to travel instead of the patients. Are we now able to charge for these visits?

·Patients who have dental problems need to be seen by a dentist, not a GP, and this service should be free. They do not need to see a GP, but if they want to see a GP because the dentist is not available then there should be a charge.

Has Mr Reid opened the door for us to start charging our own patients for services that are wanted but not needed?

Dr Stephen Patterson

Bradford, West Yorkshire

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