A Worthing doctor has spoken out in favour of charging patients for GP appointments.
David Jones, a foundation year 2 doctor in diabetes and endocrinology at Worthing Hospital, said patients should pay a fee when they see their GP.
He said it would help raise ‘billions’ for the NHS, while detering people from visiting their GP.
Writing in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), Dr Jones said the UK should follow the lead of Australia, where patients pay £10 for a standard consultation.
“Given that the average patient visits their primary physician 5.5 times a year, a £10 fee, which most GPs would find acceptable, could raise billions of pounds,” he said.
“The NHS prides itself on free health care at the point of service, but with ever increasing demands, and its inflation adjusted annual budget rising over sevenfold from £15bn to £115bn in its 67 year history, we need fundamental change to ensure its prosperity and longevity.”
He added vulnerable groups, including children and elderly people, would be exempt from charges as they are for existing prescription charges.
Dr Jones argues the other benefits would include a reduction in missed appointments – estimated to cost the government £162m a year, fewer people attending with conditions that could be managed in other ways and shorter waiting times in general practice.
Patients in the UK already pay for prescriptions and dentistry, which showed they accepted entirely free health care was not sustainable, he added.
The Worthing based doctor said the ‘radical measures’ would ensure the continued success of the NHS.
He said: “If we could accept the morality of paying for consultations while ensuring strategies to protect vulnerable people, we could reap the benefits of a more prosperous and less strained healthcare system.”
However, Nancy Loader, GP partner in Suffolk, said the scheme would deter patients from seeing the GPs after discharge from hospital.
She argued countries which have introduced a paid-for service has been ‘increased health disparities with no change in patient demand’.
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