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RCGP opposes calls for patients to pay for appointments

BMA conference delegates say NHS must consider alternative ways to increase funding

Mark Gould

Monday, 25 June 2018

The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has called on delegates at the BMA's Annual Representative Meeting to reject a motion calling for patients to pay for GP appointments.

The motion which will be debated this week is one of several from BMA divisions around the UK looking at new ways of increasing NHS revenue. A motion being proposed by the BMA Gloucester Division says that in the light of the current resources and funding crisis in the NHS the BMA should call on the government to consider alternative means of funding for the NHS and social care including considering asking patients to pay a levy.

Another motion proposed by the Worcestershire and Herefordshire Division states: "That this meeting believes that denial of NHS healthcare through covert rationing is now so endemic, that it has become regrettably necessary to consider co-payments for NHS clinical services to re-establish adequate provision."

Urging delegates to oppose the motions RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, said charging patients for GP appointments would go against one of the founding principles of the NHS, "that care is free at the point of need".

Professor Stokes-Lampard said charging risks deterring patients from seeking medical help in the early stages of illness, when they can be dealt with cost-effectively and efficiently in primary care, rather than requiring expensive specialist care in hospitals, and it is bound to negatively affect our vulnerable patients, who are less able to pay for healthcare, most.

She added that charging for appointments would also be considerably more complicated than it sounds – and GP surgeries are simply not equipped to do it.

"It would heap yet another administrative burden on practices, that we simply don’t need with the workload pressures facing our profession.

“General practice is facing intense resource and workforce pressures at the moment, but charging patients for appointments is not the answer. The prime minister, earlier this week, announced an extra £394m a week for the NHS by 2023 – what is important is that additional investment is used to ensure a robust general practice service, so that we don’t even need to consider charging patients for their care, and our service can continue to be the sustainable foundation on which the NHS is built.”

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