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More than a fifth of GPs have private health cover

GPs are almost twice as likely as their patients to have private health cover.

Private health cover is held by 21 per cent of GPs compared with just 12 per cent of the general population, Pulse's survey of GPs' health reveals.

The proportion of GPs with private health cover for themselves and their families was even higher in older age groups, with 35 per cent of those aged 55 or over paying for cover.

One GP who completed the survey and who declined to be named said the number of GPs paying for private health care was 'saddening', but inevitable.

He said his practice decided to take out private medical insurance for partners last year as a business decision.

'It was with some heaviness of heart,' he said. 'We were no longer confident that if one of us needed treatment we could get it quickly enough to keep the business running.'

A spokesperson for the Patients Association said although independent contractors might seek private cover for valid business reasons, the figures still raised serious questions: 'GPs are now in the earning bracket where they can afford private medical care. What about those who don't have the choice?'

But Dr Laurence Buckman, GPC deputy chair, defended the right of GPs to pay for private cover.

'I think it's to do with people's choice and how they choose to spend their money,' he said. 'I don't think it's anything to do with a lack of faith in the NHS.'

'Consultants look after us'

Dr Philip Fielding, vice-chair of Gloucestershire LMC and a GP in Cheltenham, does not have private medical care, but the reason for this is practical rather than philosophical.

'If we were in some of the

dire situations you hear about around the country we would have no qualms ethically or morally,' he said.

He added that GPs were often seen privately anyway at no cost: 'We still have good relationships with our consultant colleagues.'

'A sensible precaution'

Dr Alastair Moulds, a GP in Basildon, Essex, decided to pay for private cover about 18 months ago, because of concerns over the NHS 'postcode lottery'.

'Up until then I'd never had

it or even thought about it,' he said.

'But in light of the increasing MRSA risks in NHS hospitals and the increasing tendency of the NHS not to fund newest care for cancer and so on, I thought it

was sensible, for myself and

my wife.'

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