In recent weeks lots of stories have been appearing in the press and on TV about the pressures put on the NHS, particularly by the increasing numbers and increasingly frail elderly population. This of course has nothing to do with the upcoming general election in a years’ time. The Government has wrapped itself in a NHS flag for the whole of this parliament and “protected” the NHS from the austerity cuts. Though cost of living increases in NHS budgets do not compensate for the growth in the elderly population.
So with a new election looming, toes are being put in the water to see what the general public will stand in terms of some degree of charges. The first toe is the idea of a £10 charge for GP visits – an American style answer.
- It is a daft idea because £10 is not nearly enough to cover the cost of a visit – a drop-in visit to a GP medical centre in America this year cost $80 (£50) as you walk in through the door;
- It is a daft idea because at £10 it would probably be readily accepted, even by the poorest patient. Currently they spend more than £10 in phone bills trying to get an appointment, and if they do succeed in getting through, they may still have to wait several days to see the doctor;
- It is a daft idea because it would probably be so successful that for £10 the GP services would be overwhelmed with demanding patients who as “paying customers” would want value for money or a refund if they came away with no medication;
- It is a daft idea because it would cost most of the £10 in administration costs to collect it;
- It is a daft idea because unless you extend the charge to hospital visits as well, many people would go to A & E to save the £10. Then hospitals would be even more snarled up with older people than they are already.
Still, you can learn something from this first toe in the water – the Government is thinking of introducing charges into the NHS after the next election but they won’t admit it before then.