An influential think-tank has recommended the Government considers charging patients up to £25 for a GP appointment, becoming the latest in a series of recent reports mooting the controversial move.
The King’s Fund report, ‘A new settlement for health and social care’, says that ‘hard choices’ will needed to be made to maintain a ‘high-quality seamless service for the 21st century’.
It concludes that solving the lack of resources will require four elements: improved productivity; a change in the way resources are spent; an increase in taxation; and some new or higher charges.
The report follows similar comments by former health secretary Lord Warner this week, who recommended a £10 monthly subscription to pay for health services.
The King’s Fund report says the health service has to be better resourced to cope with the challenges of an ageing society and technological advances in medicine.
It suggests a charge of between £5 and £25 to see a GP – but notes that countries such as New Zealand and Sweden charge at the higher end of that range.
The report estimates a charge of £10 to see a GP, practice nurse or other primary care professional, or simply to have a GP consultation over the phone, might raise around £3 billion; a similar charge for A&E visits could raise a further £220 million.
A Pulse survey last year found that just over half of GPs are in favour of the NHS charging a small fee for routine appointments, with many believing it is the only way of managing their workload and curbing rising patient demand.
Of the 440 GPs polled in the survey, 51% said they would support charging a small fee for GP appointments, compared with 36% who would not.