GPS WILL this week demand that patients pay up front for routine appointments on the NHS.
In a radical move that would end the NHS as free at the point of delivery service, top family doctors across Britain will argue that the only way to solve the health service’s crisis in general practice is to charge patients for consultations.
The proposal will be debated at the annual conference of the British Medical Association (BMA) in Edinburgh on Thursday.
The BMA recently described NHS primary care as being “at breaking point”, with desperate patients being forced to wait weeks to see their doctor at some practices.
GPs are reportedly under such pressure that many are leaving the profession, despite senior doctors earning more than £100,000 per year.
If the proposals were to be implemented, however, they would include a “mechanism to reimburse the elderly and those on low incomes”, according to the Mail on Sunday.
Dr Prit Buttar, a GP based in Abingdon, Oxon, said: “Patients should be prepared to pay as much as they would to see a lawyer, or even a plumber. I don’t think people understand the true cost of healthcare.”
The news comes as a new poll shows four in ten people now favour of NHS user charging.
The National Centre for Social Research poll found 33 per cent agreed the NHS “should charge for some services”, such as GP consultations, if there were exceptions for groups such as children, the elderly and those on low incomes”.