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Prime Minister's adviser calls for charges to visit GP

Patients should be charged to see GPs in order to limit the 'frivolous' use of services, a leading Blairite has said.

Professor Anthony Giddens, who wrote New Labour bible The Third Way, believes the concept of an NHS 'free at the point of use' should be consigned to the past.

Instead patients should be charged 'modest fees' to access GP services, Dr Giddens writes in his new book Over to you Mr Brown, published this week.

In exchange, patient choice should be expanded to make it much easier to switch practices 'at short notice'.The former London School of Economics director believes 'modest' fees, such as in Sweden, contribute a little over 1 per cent of total funding.

He argues: 'The principle that the NHS should be free at the point of use is based on the notion that even a small fee would deter some people from visiting the doctor when they need to, especially poorer people.'But the whole point of introducing fees would be to deter people from seeing the doctor – those who come for minor or non-existent ailments.

'In a society where there is no grinding poverty, it is hard to see that a small charge would deter those who really might need treatment.'

Dr Stewart Drage, GPC negotiator, said a 'substantial and growing' number of doctors probably shared Professor Giddens' views. He also predicted that any charge would turn into a form of taxation such as dentist and prescription charges.

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