Grassroots GPs have renewed their call for the Government to allow GP practices to charge their own patients for non-NHS treatments.
The LMCs Conference in Edinburgh demanded that practices should be able to charge their own patients for treatments that are not available on the NHS, which the GPC said NHS chiefs had previously blocked because of concerns about a public backlash over privatisation.
The conference backed the call again today, this time from City and Hackney LMC’s Dr Ben Molyneux, who argued that it was ‘detrimental to patients’ for practices not to offer certain services privately – for example, HPV jabs in patients who are not covered by the NHS and are willing to pay for them.
Dr Molyneux said: ‘We shouldn’t be sending patients off to unknown private services, they should be able to see their own GP in the comfort of their own practice.’
Dr Molyneux insisted he was ‘not being naïve’ about the risks of privatisation or ‘letting commissioners off the hook’ for not funding services.
Dr Naureen Bhatti from Tower Hamlets LMC, who was among several GPs arguing against the motion, said GPs should resist charging and campaign to get services that are clinically effective available from the NHS, and that now was ‘not the time to allow more stealth privatisation’.
However, GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey said that the only reason GPs could still not charge for these kinds of services was that NHS England ‘had put up a brick wall against it’.
Dr Vautrey told Pulse: ‘It’s because they’re fearful it will be portrayed in the way it has been in the media, as privatisation of the NHS.
‘Actually, what we’re trying to do is just expand what is already possible within the contract – so for instance, malaria treatment can be given privately and certain travel vaccines, to your own patients, but we’re restricted from giving someone who is outside the flu target groups a a flu immunisation and charging them for it – whereas the pharmacist over the road can give it.
‘Similarly, there are quite a number of minor surgical procedures that are deemed cosmetic, so removing a skin tag or other minor lesions – the practice cannot do it but has to refer to a private provider who might charge them hundreds of pounds for a very simple procedure that the practice could do quite easily if they were allowed.’
Dr Vautrey told Pulse that ‘now Conference has reaffirmed the call, we will have to revisit the issue with NHS England’.
He said: ‘We will have to put it back on our negotiating agenda and try to persuade them that it is actually a safe thing from them to do, and it is in the patients’ best interest that a practice that they trust is able to do these types of procedures.’
The motion in full
Proposed by City and Hackney LMC:
‘That conference insists that as independent contractors, GPs should be permitted to provide and directly charge their registered patients for treatment not available on the NHS.’