Local GP leaders have called for practices to be remunerated appropriately for requests from private healthcare or insurance providers relating to their patients.
The vote took place at the annual conference for UK LMCs, which is underway in London today and tomorrow, and comes amidst increased use of private services by patients.
The motion was proposed by Dr David Reid, from Forth Valley LMC, who said: ‘General practice is hanging by a thread. I’m not advocating a two-tier health service, and I recognise that the private sector does provide valuable healthcare avenue for some patients where they are experiencing inadequate NHS services.
‘I can think of a patient who has seen a private provider once, perhaps remotely, not realising the total cost of their care, and then they come to their GP and ask if they can kindly check their tests for them.
‘Patients are desperate, they are seeking private healthcare both in the UK and abroad and they spend they very hard-earned cash trying to better themselves and often can’t afford the follow-up.
‘They turn to the NHS but there is no service, the health boards and trusts won’t fund it. It’s up to the GPs to pick up the pieces and it’s often well over our areas of competence.’
Dr Nafeesa Arshad, from Avon LMC, supported the motion, saying: ‘Daily we have requests from patients, these could be because they want to get referred to a private specialist or because they want to supplement their private referral with further investigation from us.
‘This is a regular problem in our surgery. These referrals are important but exhaust our resources and time.
‘The recovery plan said that specialists should be able to refer to specialists without a GP involvement, however this should be extended to involve private specialists too.
‘There should be some mechanism for the specialist abroad to be able to refer to a specialist in this country without the involvement of a GP.’
Dr Michael McKenna, from Eastern Northern Ireland LMC, spoke against the motion.
He said: ‘In Northern Ireland, we don’t have a service in many of our specialities – my patients do not have any choice and they come and see me, and they have to go through the private route.
‘I want to have that conversation with them even if it means telling them “the only option you have is to go private for that”, I want them to come and see me for that.
‘Some of my patients do stupid things and stupidly go to places, maybe not in the UK, to get procedures done that maybe are not in their best interest, I would like the opportunity to try and prevent that from happening. I don’t want any barriers put in the way.’
GPC England deputy chair Dr Kieran Sharrock said: ‘This is a really important motion – this is an ever-increasing problem, governments have under-invested in general practice and in the NHS as a whole, and this is piling pressure on us.
‘Patients are having to choose to go elsewhere. BMA is monitoring the impact of private diversion on doctors and we will be doing a report on that.
‘GP decide whether the care is necessary and it is important that GPs do have that role discussing that with their patients whether the choices they are making are sensible.’
The motion was passed in all parts.
Motion in full
AGENDA COMMITTEE TO BE PROPOSED BY FORTH VALLEY: That conference acknowledges patients are increasingly seeking healthcare privately, including travelling abroad for surgery. We call on the GPCs to work with appropriate authorities and stakeholders to:
(i) ensure patients are not required to seek approval from their NHS GP prior to accessing private healthcare PASSED
(ii) obligate private providers to inform patients of the total cost of recommended investigations, treatments and follow-up, highlighting these may not be provided by their NHS GP PASSED
(iii) obligate private providers to act upon investigations undertaken, and not simply pass results or further management suggestions onto NHS GPs to action PASSED
(iv) ensure that those who cannot access required follow up are not left without adequate specialist care PASSED
(v) ensure any involvement in a patient’s care by an NHS GP as requested by a private healthcare or insurance provider is remunerated appropriately. PASSED