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£10 charge for GP appointments would raise the NHS £1.2bn, study finds

Charging patients £10 a time to visit their GP would raise an extra £1.2bn a year in England, a new report has claimed.

The think tank Reform’s study of 31 developed countries found that 22 countries require patients to pay for an appointment with a GP, ranging from 85p in France to £17 in Sweden. If the Government introduced a £10 fee in England, this would equate to £1.2bn increase in funding, the report concluded.

The finding comes after a Pulse survey published in July prompted a national debate when it revealed that about half of GPs in the UK favour charging patients a small fee for routine appointments.

Reform’s calculations are based on adopting fees in the same way that other developed countries do. Its report argues that extra cash could also be raised through increasing prescription prices, charging patients a £10 ‘hotel charge’ for every overnight stay, and £10 for missing a hospital outpatient appointment.

Overall, these measures would bring in £3bn for the NHS, it concluded.

Thomas Cawston, research director at Reform, said: ‘Few will want to debate higher NHS charges, but the funding outlook for the service makes it unavoidable.’

‘Prescription charges are the easiest route to new revenue, with exemptions for people on low incomes.’

Pulse’s survey found that over half of GPs are in favour of the NHS charging a small fee for routine appointments, with many believing it is the only way of managing their workload and curbing rising patient demand.

Of the 440 GPs polled in the survey, which covered a wide range of different topics, 51% said they would support charging a small fee for GP appointments, compared with 36% who would not. 

That represented a significant increase on the 34% of GPs who said they would support charging for appointments in a similar poll in September 2012.

The GPC and RCGP have said they are strongly opposed to introducing charges for patients, and ministers have also ruled out the idea. But Dr Paul Charlson, a GP in Yorkshire and vice chair of Conservative Health, said there were merits to charging for appointments.

He said: ‘I think it’s a good idea in principle because it would reduce the number of inappropriate visits to GPs. We would need to make sure that there are exemptions for people on low incomes.’

However, he added: ‘There would be drawbacks of this charging. It would be political suicide for a party to introduce this. They could only really do it if there was a feeling in the country that health services were falling apart. It could be time-consuming to monitor payments, bank them, and chase up non-payment – and there would be a cost to all that.’


Readers' comments (42)

  • How about £10 per DNA, free if you turn up and £10 if you attend A+E inappropriately?

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  • Jeremy Hunt is running scared of the public. He is happy to bully the smallest kid in the playground AKA GPs but craps himself at the giant-sized public-voting kid who controls him.

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  • The real problem with this is that it would effectively be a tax on the employed middle class. People on benefits or pensions would likely be excluded from this. I don't mind paying £10 to see a doctor but for £1.40 per minute I'd expect appointments to run to time and some evidence of consultation skills.

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  • "The think tank Reform’s study of 31 developed countries found that 22 countries require patients to pay for an appointment with a GP, ranging from 85p in France to £17 in Sweden"

    Patients in Ireland over the age of 5 have to pay for consultations, with a typical charge for a consultation of approximately 50 euros.

    A range of charges from a typical practice are as as follows
    Consultation 50 euros
    Review appointment (same problem) 30 euros
    Family appointment 2 persons 80 euros, 3 persons 100 euros
    Blood test 20 euros
    Repeat prescriptions 20 euros
    Blood pressure check 20 euros

    These are fairly typical charges - there is no set national rate

    Of course, patients there have to pay for their medication too

    English patients are apparently 'notorious' when they join practices - whether they have to pay or not - because their expectations of treatment and standards are so high, 'that they always complain'

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  • But whose fault is that? It is the politicians who continually build up patient expectations regarding their right to have medical care at a time that suits them, night or day, regardless of the costs involved - both financial and to the health of the care providers.

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  • How about a £10 fee to GP's for each inappropriate prescription such as the vast amount of statins that are prescribed!

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  • I think that there should be full charging, but shoved into the current system as it is it will not work as the people that you are trying to limit are the ones who invariably be exempt through one method or another. Further to that, if the GP does have a charge and A+E remains free they will be more over-run than they are now! A similar situation exists with prescriptions, take a look at the back of the prescription and see how many exemptions there are, its mind boggling. The last figures I have seen is that 91% of items in England are dispensed free of charge.
    Ireland had to introduce measures to reduce waste and decided to introduce a 50c to E1 charge per item to those who would previously been exempt to some success. Whatever is done is not going to be politically popular, but some tough decisions will have to be made.
    You could argue that the devolved nations have bitten the bullet on this one by scrapping the prescription charge altogether and focusing on building up the ancillary care with plenty more services to reduce demand on GP and A+E such as national pharmacy minor ailment scheme and CPUS among many others.

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  • ~Reform are funded largely by private healthcare - please do some research on this - Reform work for them

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  • It would be far better to charge a fee for a DNA'd appointment, but as anonymous has already stated it would end up with working class people footing the bill as patients on benefits would not have to pay. It would generate 1.2b for the NHS but how much would it cost in bemefits?

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  • This is the exact debate Mr hunt wants us to have. Charging is coming - no doubt. Look at the carnage of primary care at present and further expectations growth of patients. Once they have destroyed primary care as we know it. The public will be happy to pay and along will come privatisation. They corporations are likley sitting rubbing their hands as most of the dirty work will have been done for them . To add insult to injury it is very likley the the politicians will blame the 'awful GP's ' for allowing the collapse and that if we had only agreed to work 25 hours/day 8 days per week then this situation could have been avoided. !! Thank god the end is in sight for me -
    ps. I have no option to write as annon because the last time I gave my name -I was contacted within hours by several hard hitting media networks and countless radio programmes for interviews !!
    Countdown continues.

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