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Public willing to pay £10 for missed GP appointment

UK majority say NHS needs to change – shorter waits, better drugs access – and are happy to pay

Louise Prime

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Almost three-quarters of people in the UK would be willing to pay around £10 for missing an appointment with a GP, according to the latest national poll, which also revealed that more than half would be willing to have a consultation via webcam if it meant they could see a GP more easily. However, GP leaders disagreed that charging for missed appointments was the right solution to the problem.

For the poll, commissioned ahead of the Astellas Pharma Innovation Debate on 25 February, people were asked their views on the NHS. Only one in four respondents agreed that the government spends enough on the health service; 91% said that it’s in need of change, with roughly a third calling for shorter waiting times (36%) and better access to medicines (30%).

People were asked their opinions on the fact that more than 12 million GP appointments are missed each year – an average of more than eight appointments every week per full-time GP – costing the NHS more than £162m. More than 70% of respondents said they would be willing to pay a charge for a missed appointment; and among those willing to pay, the mean accepted charge was £10.83.

Chair of the Royal College of GPs Dr Maureen Baker said: “When patients don’t turn up for appointments, it can be frustrating – for both GPs and for patients who could have had the appointment otherwise – but charging a penalty for this is not the answer. Charging for missed appointments would be hard to administer for very little return and would add an extra layer of bureaucracy for GPs and their teams who are already struggling with heavy workloads in order to meet rising patient demand.”

She pointed out that practices are already trying better ways of reducing non-attendance, such as text and email reminders.”

She said: “Charging for appointments – missed or otherwise – would fundamentally change one of the founding principles of the NHS, that access is free at the point of need. Doctors enter medicine to deliver care to patients – not to check that people are able to pay before they receive treatment.

“What is really needed to keep our health service sustainable and safe for patients, is for more investment in general practice and initiatives to be implemented to significantly boost the GP workforce, so that we can deliver the care our patients need and deserve.”

Those polled also said they would pay more, for improved NHS care: 39% said they would be willing to accept an additional charge if it meant quicker access to healthcare services, and 44% that they would accept additional charges if it meant access to newer and potentially more effective medicines. They said they would be willing to pay an average of £170 a year in extra income tax if it was used to fund healthcare – which could mean an additional £5bn tax revenue for the Treasury.

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