GPs debate offering more services - for a charge

Emma Woollacott
female doctor with stethoscope...
female doctor with stethoscope...

Gloucestershire doctors are calling for GPs to be allowed to offer a wider range of medical services - and to charge for doing so.

The county's local medical committee (LMC) is putting the proposal to the LMC conference in London on 21 and 22 May.

It says it "believes patient care would be improved were practices to be allowed to offer 'top up' private services to their NHS patients and requests that the [General Practitioners Committee] GPC include this in their contract negotiations."

The group of senior doctors says that many patients would prefer to have minor treatments such as the removal of moles or cysts carried out by their GP, rather than needing to go to a hospital.

"It's not as if we would turn into Harley Street physicians. We feel there is a restriction in people's liberty if they want to have this done privately," Gloucestershire LMC member Dr Phil Fielding tells the Daily Mail.

"There would have to be a small profit that would compensate that clinician's time. It wouldn't be exorbitant prices, but it would allow the patient to choose and doctor to treat."

Back in 2011, GPs in York controversially wrote to patients waiting for minor skin surgery, saying they might have to pay up to £250 for their ops.

However, the idea was widely condemned, and last year's LMC conference overwhelmingly rejected the idea of charging for access to GPs.

"Introducing a charge for services would be a tax on illness, hit the most vulnerable the hardest and threaten to undermine the principle of an NHS free at the point of delivery," Dr Chaand Nagpaul, Chair of the BMA GP Committee said at the time.

"GPs have today sent a resounding message that charging patients is not the solution to the financial crisis facing the NHS. The BMA is committed to a health service that is free at the point of need and accessible to all and we should proud to have an NHS GP service where no one has to pay to get the treatment they need."

If this latest motion is passed, it will still have to be approved by the British Medical Association and NHS England.

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