GPs 'could charge fees for treating patients outside NHS contract'

GP leaders are looking at ways doctors can earn extra cash from NHS patients, it has been reported.

Under the plans, doctors could use their own time to treat and charge patients in a way that does not conflict with their contractual arrangements with the NHS.

In an interview with Pulse magazine, Prit Buttar, who leads the local medical committee (LMC) for Oxfordshire, said a third-party company could be created to manage payments.

The move is driven by anger among GPs about the amount of money put forward for general practice by the Government.

Dr Buttar told Pulse there have been discussions with LMCs across England about implementing new structures by the end of the year that will allow GPs to charge fees for carrying out non-contractual work.

He said: "We have to look at alternative ways of increasing funding and look at models which will allow practices to operate within the rules.

"They will offer practice services, for example, if someone wants a minor operation but can only do this in an evening, then they can do this by charging a small fee.

"It will allow GPs to value their own time more and puts pressure on the Government. The Government is a monopoly customer, they can dictate how much they are willing to pay."

GPs would be able to provide private services to their own patients through the third-party company, which would take payment from patients and then pay GPs for their time.

Dr Buttar said: "We want to put in place something which is robust which can be rolled out across the country and will allow GPs to specify which services they want to provide.

"We are in preliminary discussions with other LMCs to come up with terms of reference. We want to get something in operation by the end of the year."

LMCs are made up of NHS GPs and represent their interests locally and nationally.

They work with the British Medical Association's General Practitioners Committee (GPC).

Last year, LMCs called on the GPC to hold a ballot among GPs for mass resignations from the NHS unless the Government came up with more funding.

The GPC has said it will not ballot members due to promising negotiations with NHS England.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA GPC chairman, said: "All GP practices are contracted to provide free care to every patient irrespective of their financial ability to pay. This is a key cornerstone of the NHS which the vast majority of doctors support.

"GPs are not allowed to charge their own patients for most private services even if these are not available on the NHS, including minor surgery procedures to some to remove benign lumps.

"This proposal, which is not fully developed, appears to seek to provide services outside of what GPs would usually provide to their patients as part of their NHS care.

"Irrespective of this scheme and its aims, the immediate priority is for the Government to address the incredible pressure on GP services, which is facing a severe shortage of several thousand doctors and has left 300 GP practices facing closure."

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