English LMCs have voted against bringing in patient charges for access to GPs after it was suggested the controversial measure was required to address the ’dire state of general practice’.
Delegates at the English LMCs Conference in London today heard that radical change was needed to support general practice as the current GMS contract ‘was not working’.
However, following a heated debate, the motion was voted down by 83 votes to 131.
A number of GPs voted both for and against the motion in a much closer vote than at previous LMCs conferences, with speakers saying they have come round to the idea of co-pyaments in general practice due to the worsening situation
Kent LMC delegate Dr Zishan Syed – who proposed the motion – said that the approach from the BMA’s GP Committee had ‘not worked’ and a radical new approach was needed.
He said: ‘Co-payment does exist in the UK – it is not a foreign concept.
‘We have co-payments in sensory aid, dental care and prescription medicines. Yet it remains a taboo topic when talking about access to see a GP.
‘We are overwhelmed. Disgusted with the GPC, many GPs have chosen to vote with their feet. they have left to countries with the co-payments model. Such areas include Australia, New Zealand, Holland and France.’
Dr David Wrigley, a GP in Lancashire, said he agreed general practice was in a ‘dire state’ but that charging patients to see a GP was not the solution.
‘We are on our knees but the answer to this problem we face is not a co-payment model where patients are asked to pay for part of their care.
‘The co-payment transaction will be made with us as doctors in ours surgeries and it opens up Pandora’s box.
‘The insurance industry will be watching on today and hoping this motion is passed.
‘Be in no doubt, co-payments mean insurance-based healthcare.
‘All that flows from that is increased bureaucracy for us as doctors, along with inequitable access to care for those unable to afford the payments – and worse health outcomes for those who don’t have deep pockets.
‘We are a broken system that politicians are to blame for – but don’t make patients pay as a knee-jerk reaction.’
GP Dr Annie Farrell said: ‘We all already pay for our NHS so it is there when we – whoever we are and whatever out circumstances – can access it when we need it.
‘The idea that this would reduce workload on the basis of the use of carrier bags after a charge was introduced is laughable.
‘How is a payment going to address the supply and demand issue unless we are talking about abandoning those who can’t afford to pay?
‘Patients in the US, where all care is paid for, are some of the most demanding in the world. They expect to get something for what they pay for.’
But Dr Syed later added: ‘You talk about wanting to pursue the same tactics year after year. And year after year, surgeries are shutting down.
‘Those GPs come up to me and tell me how tired and exhausted they are. They are fed up with being told they are not resilient enough.
‘Your strategy isn’t working – you need someone to tell you to be radical and to do something different. Co-payment is working in other countries and the world is not collapsing.
‘GMS funding is not increasing and repeatedly saying to the Government ‘we want the GMS funding to increase’ isn’t working.’
He said: ‘You need to think about doctors’ interests because those doctors are being ruined with their surgeries collapsing.
‘You tell me you’re worried about patients – what happens to those patients at surgeries that collapse?’
Motion in full
KENT: That conference recognises the dire state of general practice and demands a co-payment model – FAILED