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Gerada urges LMCs to oppose GP charges

A petition urging GP leaders to oppose GP appointment charges at this week’s LMCs annual conference has been launched, with former RCGP chair Professor Clare Gerada as one of the high-profile signatories.

Professor Gerada said she had just signed the open letter – launched by Newcastle-based medical student Anya Gopfert – and that anyone ‘against charging for attending GP’ should sign her open letter.

As revealed by Pulse, GP leaders are set to vote on whether the GPC should ‘explore national charging for GP services’ at the LMC Conference being held in York on Thursday and Friday of this week.

The motion proposes that general practice is ‘unsustainable in its current format’ and that ‘it is no longer viable for general practice to provide all patients with all NHS services free at the point of delivery’.

It concludes: ‘That conference… calls on GPC to explore national charging for general practice services with the UK governments.’

The open letter says: ‘We, the undersigned, categorically oppose the introduction of user charges for NHS GP services, and any proposals to that ends… User fees are a disincentive to accessing healthcare, and target the poorest disproportionately. They lead to worsening care for chronic conditions, and more people seeking care at accident and emergency services, increasing cost and straining A&E departments.’

Professor Gerada said: ‘There is no evidence at all that co-payments [by patients] do anything at all except prevent the poor, sick from attending. They are a disincentive.’

‘The letter itself is a very well thought-through letter, it is not emotive, and I think it is important because what we should be discussing is why we have even wider inequalities, not whether we should widen them further by discussing co-payments.’

The RCGP has said introducing charges for GP appointments would ‘fundamentally change’ a founding principle of general practice and BMA deputy chair Dr Kailash Chand wrote in a Pulse opinion piece that ‘charging is not the answer’.