Should patients be charged for GP appointments?
The front page of a newspaper wouldn’t be the same without a story focusing around the struggling NHS budget. Every day, we hear new reports about how our public health service is trying to find innovative ways to locate money from somewhere to fund all the services and improvements we have come to expect and need from our hospitals. Whether this is creating savings from other healthcare departments or introducing restrictive cuts, we all know that money is tight for the NHS.
One of ideas being batted around is the possibility of charging patients fees for their GP appointments, including patients who fail to turn up for scheduled in consultations. Currently the national health service is completely government funded and is therefore paid for by British taxes, however recent debates over privatising health services has only muddied the waters further.
Luckily for patients, many GP’s have strongly rejected the idea of charging for their services. Retired GP Steven Ford for example makes the valid point that “introducing direct payments at consultation fatally corrupts the doctor/patient relationship. Vulnerability to ill health is often inversely proportional to wealth.” Commenting on social site Quora, he continues “Single payer systems with payment from general taxation is the only civilised way to go.”
With 65% of adults not heading to their GP’s when they feel ill and 21% too embarrassed to even reveal their health problems to their doctors, would paying for services only put patients off further? Rupert Baines comments that “it provides a disincentive to visit.”
“A problem in public health is patients who say ‘oh, it’s nothing’ and postpone visits, potentially until conditions have got worse. A stitch in time saves nine, so discouraging early interventions is perhaps not cost effective,” he explains.
NHS worker Liz Reed is strongly against negotiations for fees, declaring “I like that there is absolute transparency that if I order a test, it’s purely for the patient’s best interest and there is no challenge to that. It eases patient/doctor relationships. The NHS was established to be free at the point of care. It is a slippery slope if we start charging…”