GP’s are once again raising the issue of charging for an appointment to see your GP. (You can see all my earlier posts on this subject by clicking on GP’s in the Tag Cloud )
You can tell an election is coming ! The issue has been talked up by the doctors union at the last three elections. Each time all the political parties have run away shouting the sacrosanct mantra “the NHS should be free at the point of delivery”. I am far from convinced that charging is a good idea, BUT, something has to change.
- More and more GP’s are retiring early.
- Many practices are unable to recruit new doctors.
- Some practices are closing altogether.
- New patients can’t easily get registered.
- Appointments can be difficult to get quickly.
- Being not able to see your GP often means more people turn up at A&E.
- If they are elderly and are admitted, they often don’t come out quickly.
- Gradually the whole system clogs up.
Underlying this situation is the dramatic growth in the older population and the high levels of chronic illness in the older age group. Nobody wants to face up to this situation, but the G P’s can’t avoid it — unless they retire !
There is a good evaluation of GP’s charging fees commissioned by the Kings Fund not too long ago. A £10 appointment applied to everyone would raise between £3.5 to £4.5 billion for the NHS. It concluded it probably would not work well and could have unintended consequences. ( You can see it by clicking on the following link https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/reports/thenhsif/what-if-people-were-to-pay-10-to-see-a-gp/)
So what is to be done :-
- It has been suggested that they try a few limited pilots of charging, with exemptions for those people on welfare benefits or recurrent illness. You can see this would be controversial straight away.
- I would open some high street shops as walk-in centres manned by GP’s and nurses. Open nine till five seven days a week, they would charge a standard £25 for a consultation and more if treatment was subsequently provided. If you didn’t want to pay for treatment, you would be referred to the NHS and join the waiting list. This should reduce the pressure on GP services.
Could be the start of a new era in health care with a focus on well-being and healthy living.