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Missed GP appointments ‘should be logged with a health Oyster card’

Patients should be given health ‘Oyster cards’ that inform them of their personal financial impact on NHS resources, a Labour peer has suggested.

The system, inspired by Transport for London’s top-up travelcards, would see patients having to ‘swipe in’ each time they used services with a different amount of points deducted. Should they, for example, miss a GP appointment, a larger number of points would come off the card.

Although no actual money would need to be paid towards the usage, patients would need to ‘recharge’ their cards and at the end of the year they would recieve a bill outlining their total cost to the NHS, Lord Meghnad Desai suggested.

Speaking in a House of Lords debate, the baron said this would ‘make it clear to people that a free NHS is not a costless one’ and thereby perhaps impact their behaviour to minimise wastage of resources.

He said: ‘I propose a sort of health Oyster card for every citizen. Every time they used the NHS, they would have to swipe their Oyster card and a certain number of points would be deducted.

‘The Oyster cards could be recharged. At the end of the year, people would get a bill showing how many points had been used and on which health service facilities. If people missed a GP appointment, 15 points would be deducted rather than two.’

The suggestion comes after health secretary Jeremy Hunt said he supported in principle the idea of charging patients for missed appointments but that it would be difficult to introduce in practice. The Government has since clarified it has no plans to introduce charges for missed appointments.