This week will see the British Medical Association call to impose a charge for NHS patients to seek a consultation with their local doctor.
In effect going even further and calling for practices to go 100 per cent private.
The case they are putting forward for charging is it will be the only way to end the crisis that is seeing 150 GPs leaving the NHS each week and it could help with the recruitment of new GPs.
The National Centre for Social Research says that 39 per cent of people would be in favour of some form of charge, but putting the spin to one side, 61 per cent thought that the NHS should remain free.
During last week a complaint was made on the Fighting 4 Life Lincolnshire hospital campaign Facebook site that a local GP charged a patient £145, no doubt for something additional that a GP can charge for.
On Thursday I attended the Grantham and Stamford Conservative launch for the general election which was attended by Michael Gove MP. In open question time I put this complaint to him and asked him if he thought it was acceptable to make a charge to visit a GP? His reply was that the Prime Minister Theresa May’s view is that the NHS should remain free at the point of service, which for me was reassuring.
I receive regular complaints that it can take four weeks to see a doctor, a fact that I have experienced myself this month on trying to obtain an appointment. Practices say that many patients who book appointments do not turn up which cause delays and frustration to those who need to see a GP urgently, therefore it is no wonder that they attend A&E.
It has been reported that we pay to use a plumber or a lawyer so we should pay to see a doctor; my view is that we already pay through our taxes and National Insurance contributions for this service, paying again would see many of our citizens disadvantaged and perhaps put off from a life-saving diagnosis.
Charging would be the start of a slippery slope to implement private healthcare. Some people may say that this is a good idea and a quick search on the Internet quoted figures from £10 to £45 a visit but give it a thought for a moment. Do we want to go back to a time where people died as they could not afford to see a doctor? Also a £10 charge would be nothing to some people but hard for others to find. Also factor in the cost of collection, would it really make a change to the service?
The NHS is in crisis but I ask myself, would I be prepared to pay more to save the NHS through an increase taxes? Perhaps, but is money all that’s needed? Yes for our hard working nurses but bureaucracy also needs to be addressed.
A big debate and no doubt as you read this, one where you will have your own views.
Coun Ray Wootten