Will GP’s have to charge for appointments?

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General practice turning into “conveyor belt medicine” according to family doctors

A proposal to charge patients in the UK for an appointment with their GP has been rejected at the British Medical Association’s GP conference in York.

Despite the scheme being refused, there are still fears about the future of GP services, as delegates warned that services were continuing to be overstretched, putting the quality of care at risk. BMA GP leader Dr Chaand Nagpaul said general practice was becoming “conveyor belt medicine”, with some doctors having to see at least 60 patients per day.

“Add to this the sheer volume of phone calls, visits, repeat prescriptions, results, reports and hospital correspondence and we have an unmanageable, exhausting and unsustainable workload that puts safety and quality at risk,” he told BBC News.

Future service

The NHS budget for GP’s has actually decreased in recent years to only 9%, despite doctors in this area dealing with 90% of patient contact. Some members stressed about increasing workloads, while potential charges of between £10 – £25 were discussed for doctor’s appointments.

Dr Rob Bailey, from Cambridgeshire, said “Charging will fundamentally change the unique relationship between GPs and patients. Charging will blur the boundaries between the NHS and non-NHS services.”

Dr Helena McKeown, a GP from Wiltshire, said  “A fixed fee for some services for some patients will emphasise our value. Dedicated funding for general practice will assist practices to take on new GPs.”

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