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GPs call for A&E charging to relieve pressure on hospitals

By The Citizen  |  Posted: January 03, 2014

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A third of GPs believe patients should be charged for some A&E visits, while most think Government changes will do nothing to alleviate current pressures, according to a new poll.

One in three family doctors said introducing patient fees for some visits would be the most cost-effective way of cutting unnecessary A&E attendances.

Charging patients £5 or £10 every time would stop many people visiting A&E at the ‘drop of a hat’.

Refunds could then be given if the trip was found to be necessary.

More than 800 GPs from across England answered the survey for Doctors.net.uk.

Four in 10 said placing a GP surgery - with extended opening hours - right next to every A&E department would help drive down the numbers seeking help and cut spiralling hospital admissions.

Meanwhile, 11 per cent think more NHS walk-in centres would help ease the strain on A&E, while 8 per cent think an improved 111 phone service - set up to replace NHS Direct - could provide the answer.

The overwhelming majority said changes announced by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt in November regarding GP contracts would do little to help ease pressure on A&E, which is facing unprecedented demand from patients.

Mr Hunt said a 2004 contract for GPs, introduced under Labour, had enabled doctors to drop responsibility for out-of-hours care and put ‘huge pressure’ on A&E departments.

He pledged to rectify this by offering all elderly patients and those with complex conditions access to a named GP, responsible for overseeing their care.

GPs will also be given more responsibility for monitoring out-of-hours care and hospitals will have more access to GPs when considering whether to admit patients.

Dr Hein Le Roux from NHS Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group said:

“We are working hard in Gloucestershire with our partners to improve the way services are provided and to promote the range of healthcare options available through our Choose Well campaign.

"As members of the public, we should all recognise the importance of using NHS services responsibly, but we do not support the introduction of fees for use of A&E”

Royal College of General Practitioners spokeswoman Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard, said: “The overwhelming majority of GPs still respect the founding principle of the NHS: that healthcare should be provided free at the point of need.

“Charging patients for the use of emergency departments would put us on the slippery slope towards the Americanisation of healthcare - where only those who can afford it get the care and attention they need.”

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3 comments

  • Lecorche  |  January 04 2014, 11:12AM

    So,the truth is that the majority of GPs do NOT support these ideas. Once again TiG is economic with the truth.

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  • honslknjklyt  |  January 03 2014, 10:51AM

    We are truly on the way to losing our NHS. unemployed, drug addicts,, disabled, pensioners, and all those who get their prescriptions free would probably be exempt, meanwhile the rest of us who work and subsidise the rest will have to pay, meaning it is a further tax on taxes we already pay. I do think the drunkerds should be charged when they fall over in their silly shoes and cut their bare feet, or get so bladdered they can hardly see.

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  • SandraPee  |  January 03 2014, 10:32AM

    It's ok , in theory to say the elderly would have a named GP who is responsible for overseeing their care, but, we already have that ! That doesn't mean that they can get an appointment to see that GP when they need to though ! The same goes for drop-in centres . The problem is that there are more and more people living in the area , and with thousands more homes potentially being built it's common sense that GP's and hospitals just can't cope with the sheer numbers of patients needing help . I would have no problem with charging those turning up at A&E departments with ''self inflicted'' conditions like alcohol / drug abuse related issues . That needs to be done and would take some of the pressure off doctors and nurses . Not just a nominal fee , but a realistic charge which, hopefully, would hit home that there is a price to pay for their irresponsibility.

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