Copperfield enjoys the full budget airline travel experience - and it's given him a great idea...
The idea that local councils might start behaving like budget airlines – charging extra for any service above and beyond the basics – could easily spread to other areas of government expenditure in these cash-strapped times.
Take, pulling an example out of the vapour-trailed blue sky... NHS primary care.
Obviously the standard 'Turn up and wait to be seen for seven minutes service' will remain free of charge, but patients opting to be seen by appointment – or who preferred the ten minute slots recently withdrawn by the PCT as part of their initiative to maximise patient throughput – should be prepared to pay a small, say, £10 'convenience charge'.
Patients can and do book GP appointments online. For those who choose not to it's appropriate to introduce a small fee - say, £10 to make an appointment by telephone and a further fee, say £10, for a one-on-one encounter with a valued member of our highly trained patient-facing receptionist staff.
On arrival at the surgery there are ample 'Self Check-in' facilities available linked to our appointment computer – a system so simple that failure to do so and electing to check-in in person at the desk should incur a modest fee of, say, £10.
As for baggage, patients should appreciate the extra time and cost involved in accommodating accompanying relatives and friends. This could be reflected in a small charge, say £10 per first-degree relative and an easily affordable surcharge, say £10, for more distant relations and/or friends and neighbours.
Two patient-centred innovations will assist families who prefer to be seated together in the Waiting Area. The economical option would be for the whole family to opt in to the 'Speedy Access' system – for a standard all-inclusive fee per family, say £10, they would be allowed access to the waiting room chairs before their fellow attendees.
Should families wish to guarantee adjoining seats or desirable positions, for example seats directly outside their GP's consulting room or close to the toilet facilities, then they can make use of the seat reservation system for the bargain price of, say, £10 per person.
Anyone wishing to extend their room experience beyond the 'One Appointment – One Person – One Problem' service available free of charge will not resent the small extra fee, say, £10 per additional problem mentioned during the consultation.
Similarly any prescriptions issued that relate to the presenting complaint will be issued gratis – however, extra items, for example those from the patient's repeat prescription list will attract a trivial 'printing, checking and signing' fee of, say, £10 per item.
So, the standard family of four who wish to be seen by appointment, check in in-person, sit together in the waiting room and discuss two problems with their GP with a relative present will pay no more than £200. Good value when compared to, for example, a day out at a theme park.
And with the money I can book a return flight to a destination I've actually heard of, with a decent airline.Copperfield