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CAMHS won't see you now

Four in 10 GPs in favour of charging patients for appointments

Exclusive Four in 10 GPs would welcome being able to charge patients for appointments, a Pulse survey has found. 

The survey of 948 GPs found that 41% are in favour of the NHS charging a fee for appointments, as it could help tackle workload and allow a better use of their time. 

This is a decrease from 2013, when just over half of 440 GPs who were surveyed by Pulse said they were in favour of charging a small fee for routine appointments, compared with 36% who would not.

Under the new five-year contract, negotiated by the BMA and NHS England in January, general practice will receive billions of funding alongside a raft of changes, including financial incentives to join primary care networks and a new state-backed indemnity scheme paid for out of the global sum.

Despite NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens saying the deal 'unarguably represents the biggest boost to primary care in more than 15 years', only 45% of GPs said they would have voted for the contract if it had been put to ballot, with some arguing against the little increase in funding

In Pulse's latest survey, the 387 GPs in favour of introducing a fee for appointments argued this could help drive demand down and tackle the increased pressures.

One GP said: 'Although I have previously opposed this, I now genuinely think that people don't value health care services, either hospital or general practice. We get numerous DNAs, as do the hospital.

'Charging 5p for a carrier bag has reduced the number of unnecessary carrier bags as people think twice. A nominal fee that makes people think about whether an appointment is genuinely needed or if they can access appropriate information in an alternate way might improve unnecessary workload.'

Echoing their comment, one respondent said: 'A small, nominal fee that can be claimed back if on low income. It would make people realise that primary care is a privilege and not unlimited, while not restricting access for those who need it.'

Another GP said: 'I cannot think of any other way of stemming increasing and unreasonable demand other than some form of financial barrier.'

The survey also showed that 41% of respondents are against the practice of charging patients, pointing out it would be 'appalling' and likely to deepen the divide between the rich and poor.

One GP said: 'This would create further health inequalities, drive the inverse care law and create increased, unreasonable expectations. A potential consequence of this would be an increase in investigations, referrals and prescriptions.'

Another GP commented: 'Public support for the NHS is already precarious. We already charge people for their NHS care, through taxes. To charge again would be appalling. The poorest would get sicker.' 

Leading doctors have previously rejected calls for the BMA to consider charging patients for GP appointments in order to fund the NHS, saying co-payments are 'a tax on sickness' and 'clearly not right'.

The issue was also debated at the 2017's LMCs conference in Edinburgh, when GP leaders tasked the BMA GPC with creating a list of the charging options available and their potential positives and negatives despite warnings that passing the motion would send the wrong message. 

Meanwhile, a 2015 YouGov poll revealed that almost a quarter of British people would be willing to pay for GP appointments


Readers' comments (29)

  • Amazingly many other countries around the world seem to have found solutions to the "who gets the money" or "what about those who can't afford it" problems.

    Many of you sound like you've been taking hostage by the NHS and have Stockholm Syndrome.

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  • It works in the rest of the western world apart from the USA, but out leaders are herding the masses down the road of a USA HMO model.This will not bode well well this will inevitably happen and we inherit the worst copayment system in the world by default.

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  • Let's discuss:
    I think there should be a charge for NOT seeing the GP! (or any practice staff)
    Take a deposit, of, say, £ 50, and lose it for a DNA;
    Introduce a fee for email/telephone/internet consultations;
    and a REALISTIC fee for copies of records, notes, or letters!

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  • So what we need now is some objective meaningful validated data.

    Certainly at the meetings I attend,the Irish GP's are on average 100% happier and more professionally satisfied than their British counterparts,clearly that are always also the noisiest table,and the one everyone else wants to join.

    It would be interesting to know how many of those who oppose this proposal also support staying in the EU where this occurs,e.g. France.

    A trip to France,to meet some French GP's,is I think called for,all in the name of professional research

    I feel a booze cruise coming on

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  • Leave this to the BMA

    Not only will they vote out charging pts, they will introduce the charging of GPs to see patients.

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  • Before comparing oranges with apples, note that France/Germany put £20-24bn more per annum into their health services than does UK.

    Charging is for zombies. Costs more to administrate than is recouped (see prescription charges).

    Not a single commentator anywhere ever seems to have noticed, let alone counted/costed/analysed, the proportion of GP time/appointments occupied by forced initiatives from NHSE....all the healthy people on whom we do NHS health checks, 'proactive' appointments, care plans, bloods, reviews etc etc etc.

    No evidence, no analysis.

    My suspicion is that the money doesn't end up covering the extra work and staff required. Same for the new work of PCNs.

    It's time we checked our own backyard properly before blaming and punishing patients.

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  • France and Germany put more money into healthcare; they use insurance and co-payments instead of expecting tax payers to footthe entire bill.

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  • Even in Greece you pay a small fee to see a Gp and the system actually works pretty well. No having to queue up at 8 in the morning outside some freezing sh*thole or having to scramble with hundreds of other callers on the phone first thing in the morning to get a “same day appointment”. What moron came up with this stupid system

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  • David Banner

    5p for a plastic bag

    A nominal charge would significantly reduce use whilst not impeding the poor.

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  • What's this rubbish about it costing more to charge. It costs nothing. £10 please and thank you very much. End of. We charge people for letters etc and it costs nothing just take the money

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