The Government may have to introduce GP appointment charges unless it comes up with another plan to fund its seven-day access pledge, an influential accountancy institute has said.
The Chartered Institute of Public Finance (Cipfa)’s detailed financial analysis of the NHS five-year plan and Government pledges concluded the Government has just three options: charge patients to see a doctor; reduce services; or increase funding by significantly more than the £8bn pledged.
NHS England has claimed its Five Year Forward View’s plans to switch to new models of care – including GPs working at scale and with hospital trusts – could save a required £22bn by 2020.
But Cipfa’s analysis found that it had failed to take into account the Prime Minister’s plan for evening and weekend GP appointments, same-day appointments for over-75s or increasing pressure on health services stemming from social care and benefits being cut.
The report also said the ‘unproven’ experimentation with different models of care ‘carry a big risk of delay or underachievement’.
This means the Government may have to consider ‘charging for “hotel costs” in health’ or ‘flat rate contributions towards visits to the doctor or A&E; paying a proportion of treatment costs (as in France); or insurance approaches’.
The economists concluded: ‘As things stand, the Government is left with three choices: charge patients to use some services such as a flat rate contributory fee to see the doctor, reduce services, or increase funding.’
Cipfa chief executive Rob Whiteman said: ‘The NHS is presently beset by a Five Year Forward View and resource assumptions that will not add up.’