LMCs have called for GPs to be able to offer private services to their registered NHS patients in certain circumstances and ‘at their discretion’.
Voting at the UK LMC conference in London, local GP leaders passed a motion stating that GPs should be allowed to offer paid-for services if they ‘are not routinely offered by the NHS’ or if they are offered but are not accessible in a ‘reasonable’ time frame.
They also passed part of the motion which emphasised trust in GPs to ‘manage potential conflicts of interest’ arising from offering these private services.
LMCs called on the BMA to ‘state that the wellbeing of its members is a higher priority than the delivery of NHS services’.
This part of the motion received some pushback from speakers, with chair of GPC Wales Dr Gareth Oelmann warning the conference to ‘take care with the optics’ of this ‘rhetoric’, and was ultimately passed as a reference rather than concrete policy.
Proposing the motion, Buckinghamshire chair LMC Dr Stefan Kuetter said allowing GPs to provide some private services would offer a ‘solution’ to the lack of funding in the system.
Some GPs expressed concerns about this policy worsening health inequalities and perpetuating a two-tier system.
Dr Jessica Randall-Carrick from Cambridgeshire LMC said: ‘This motion perpetuates the inverse care law. Those that have the least need of our services will demand it more, and those with the more disease, the more severe disease earlier in life, will be given whatever energy we have leftover.’
She added: ‘Although it may be tempting to care for and be paid by the wealthy, worried well, gratifying such desires for that extra money goes against our usual high moral standards.’
Similarly, Dr Naomi Rankin from Liverpool LMC said allowing GPs to offer paid-for services ‘blurs the line between NHS and private care’ and that it is ‘encouraging a two-tier healthcare system’.
However, Dr Kuetter countered that the ‘two-tier system is already there’ and GPs ‘are not the architects of that’, while Dr Christiane Harris from Bedfordshire LMC said ‘surely it is better for GPs to be able to make such provision for their patients locally, and probably, dare I say it, for less cost?’
During the debate, Dr Nimish Shah from Morgannwg LMC said a similar motion had been passed by conference before, however this was over 10 years ago at the 2012 LMC conference.
This year’s UK LMC conference has established policies for practices to be remunerated appropriately for requests from private healthcare, and to call for more financial incentives for prospective GPs. Delegates also supported a motion backing industrial action by GPs.
Meanwhile, the conference has rejected proposals which would allow SAS doctors to work in general practice as primary care doctors.
Motion in full
AGENDA COMMITTEE TO BE PROPOSED BY BUCKINGHAMSHIRE: That conference notes that unlike
dentists and pharmacists, GPs cannot currently offer many private services to their NHS patients,
and believes that:
(i) GP surgeries should at their discretion be allowed to offer their NHS patients paid-for
services if these services are not routinely offered by the NHS (PASSED)
(ii) GP surgeries should at their discretion be allowed to offer their NHS patients paid-for
services if these services are routinely offered by the NHS but are not accessible in a time
frame that the patient deems reasonable (PASSED)
(iii) GPs can be trusted to manage potential conflicts of interests arising from offering paid-for services to their NHS patients (PASSED)
(iv) the BMA should state that the wellbeing of its members is a higher priority than the
delivery of NHS services. (PASSED AS REFERENCE)