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Gerada urges LMCs to oppose GP charges

A petition urging GP leaders to oppose GP appointment charges at this week’s LMCs annual conference has been launched, with former RCGP chair Professor Clare Gerada as one of the high-profile signatories.

Professor Gerada said she had just signed the open letter - launched by Newcastle-based medical student Anya Gopfert - and that anyone ‘against charging for attending GP’ should sign her open letter.

As revealed by Pulse, GP leaders are set to vote on whether the GPC should ‘explore national charging for GP services’ at the LMC Conference being held in York on Thursday and Friday of this week.

The motion proposes that general practice is ‘unsustainable in its current format’ and that ‘it is no longer viable for general practice to provide all patients with all NHS services free at the point of delivery’.

It concludes: ‘That conference… calls on GPC to explore national charging for general practice services with the UK governments.’

The open letter says: ‘We, the undersigned, categorically oppose the introduction of user charges for NHS GP services, and any proposals to that ends… User fees are a disincentive to accessing healthcare, and target the poorest disproportionately. They lead to worsening care for chronic conditions, and more people seeking care at accident and emergency services, increasing cost and straining A&E departments.’

Professor Gerada said: ‘There is no evidence at all that co-payments [by patients] do anything at all except prevent the poor, sick from attending. They are a disincentive.’

‘The letter itself is a very well thought-through letter, it is not emotive, and I think it is important because what we should be discussing is why we have even wider inequalities, not whether we should widen them further by discussing co-payments.’

The RCGP has said introducing charges for GP appointments would ‘fundamentally change’ a founding principle of general practice and BMA deputy chair Dr Kailash Chand wrote in a Pulse opinion piece that ‘charging is not the answer’.

Readers' comments (14)

  • Bob Hodges

    'Free' consutlations aren't much good if there's no GP to consult with.

    Delaying the inevitable collapse (for it IS inevitable unless something changes radicaly and soon) will harm more people in the end, and there won't be enough GPs left to build a system around that provides equity of access.

    Unless politicians out there grow some balls and start talking about reducing demand or raising taxes in an honest manner (fat chance), then it won't just be the ppor who struggle to get reasonable access to a GP in times of need, it will be most of the population.

    It really is that stark.

    We were all idealistic medical students once, it was just harder to start petitons in the days of dial-up modems before Twitter.

    I no longer listen to anyone who opposes charges without coming up with a realistic alternative that doesn't involve my 60 hour week becoming a 70+ hour week.

    I'm not convinved myself that charging is the answer, but this is a debate that needs to be had in public, as the people need to know that the status quo isn't an option.

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  • Sensible comment from Bob Hodges above.

    Whilst trying hard to not be dismissive one does wonder how someone who does not have a wealth of practical and real experience in this area can make a fully informed comment. Not being able to see a GP because clinics are fully booked with nonsense, I suspect, would also have a negative effect on health outcomes.

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  • Maintain the caveats for those who receive free prescriptions but for patients who pay £8.05 for a prescription and a lot more for dental treatment, a small fee for a GP appointment might make some people value us.

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  • There are many patients who have free prescriptions or would be exempt from charges who use a lot of GP services up for triviality. Charging those who can afford directly to pay for GP appointments isn't necessary going to control the huge demand we are struggling with and not for those practices who work in deprived areas. The solution is not as simple as saying only charge those who can afford it!

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  • There are a lot of unlucky people out there with complex medical problems developed through no fault of their own. Do we really want to charge these individuals who are simply carrying on with the life cards they've been dealt? It's hard to pick out the real "targets" for appt payments without looking discriminatory (obese/smokers/drinkers/personality disorders/freeloaders/drug seekers/the lonely. See what I mean?!

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  • Penalising the poor is not the way to go. Co payments will start low and rise - GPs will have their global sum cut as a consequence and will therefore be forced to collect. It will be divisive and wreck trust. It doesn't work - no evidence that it does. It must be resisted at all costs. Instead we must be fighting for 10% of NHS budget ('minimum) and a stop to the spin that we can't afford NHS. Wanlass in 2000 predicted we should be spending £120bn by 2014 - we are spending £110bn so we are not overspending. The LMC motion is wrong and could be an own goal.

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  • Bob Hodges

    If its rejected after proper debate, them I'm more than happy about it.

    The profession has then made a 'choice'. It's easier to bear the consequences of your own choices than those of others made on your behalf.

    Continuing to treat GPs like a punchbag and indentured servants is THE own goal. It's killing the Golden Goose.

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  • Ah yes
    Sir Derek Wanlass
    Perhaps Professor Gerada could remind us all.He produced reports for a certain Gordon Brown who's record on financial management speaks for itself
    When not producing these reports what was ASir Derek Wanlass day job?

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  • Any charging cannot allow for exemptions.

    We should move to the aussie system, it will mean the loss of global sum but they barely meet basic costs anyway.

    Any insurance system will allow us some funds to survive.
    After the RCGP chairs pathetic performance on the daily politics yesterday, i am left feeling in despair

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  • Before the NHS, weren't GPs private and charging patients? Hence, it isn't true that charges would "change a founding principle of general practice".
    I don't agree with the position that conditions will worsen, as it seems for many outcomes the UK trails other countries, who do charge for appts. If anything, by filtering out the trivial that takes a disproportionate amount of time, more focus can be given by those highly trained clinicians in managing the conditions.
    @9.53pm, whilst for many it might appear they develop conditions through no fault of their own, the over-reliance on medicalising everything has taken away any sense of self-responsibility. A lot of conditions can be helped, averted etc by healthy lifestyle choices.

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