Almost one quarter of Conservative Party councillors favour the introduction of charging for GP appointments, a survey by the Labour Party has indicated.
A Labour Party member who surveyed Tory local government representatives found that 26 out of 115 resondents, or 23%, were in favour of introducing charges for GP appointments and other NHS services.
The Labour Party said the survey’s revelations, which showed 31% of Tory councillors were in favour of either charging, further privatisation of the NHS or cuts to the service, were ‘signficant because the current cohort of Tory councillors is likely to make up a significant proportion of the next intake of Tory MPs’.
However the Conservative Party rebutted the claims, saying that health secretary Jeremy Hunt has firmly ruled out appointment charges, and accused Labour of continuing to ‘weaponise’ the NHS.
Example responses from the survey, undertaken by a student who informed councillors he was a member of the Labour Party during April, included suggestions for a £10 standard charge for appointments for all patients except certain benefits recipients.
Councillor Bob Baldwin, a Conservative member of West Devon Council, said that with prescription costs already charged to patients who can afford them, there ‘is no reason why this principle could not be extended to other services e.g. GP visits, with the proviso that vulnerable people are protected’.
Conservative Councillor Richard Curthoys for St Albans District Council suggested the charge could be refundable if the GP visit was ‘a genuine case’, further suggesting charges could be rolled out for patients attending A&E for non-emergency treatment when they ‘should be going to their GP’.
Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham commented: ‘This is the real face of the Tory Party. They have let the cat out of the bag – five more years of David Cameron means more NHS privatisation and charging.
‘It is clear that, just like last time, Cameron’s NHS promises have an expiry date of election day stamped on them. He promised no top-down reorganisation and brought forward the biggest-ever top-down reorganisation. If he gets back in, the NHS will be sunk by a toxic mix of cuts and privatisation. Instead, Labour’s better plan will invest in 20,000 more nurses and 8,000 more GPs.’
However, the Conservative Party rebutted the claims.
A Conservative spokesperson said: ‘This marks a new low in Ed Miliband’s desperate attempts to weaponise the NHS. His credibility on health is in tatters because he refuses to fund the £8bn the NHS needs.
‘By building a stronger economy, we have protected and improved the NHS with 9,500 more doctors, 6,900 more nurses, and 1.3 million more life-saving operations every year. There is only one threat to the future of our NHS and that is the economic chaos of an Ed Miliband-SNP government.’