GP leaders backed calls at the LMC conference 2017 to allow GP practices to provide extra services – and charge patients for doing so – if they are not commissioned to provide them on the NHS.
Presenting a motion in favour of the move at the LMCs conference in Edinburgh, Dr Ben Molyneux from City and Hackney LMC said it was not an attempt to privatise the NHS or monetise the doctor-patient relationship.
Instead, it was time to remove ‘ridiculous loopholes that lead to the detriment of our patients’, he said.
He cited several examples of incidences where he had been unable to provide his patients with the care they needed under the current system.
Dr Molyneux said that a gay male patient had requested an HPV vaccine from his practice after being turned away from a sexual health clinic. The practice was advised that since it was not commissioned to provide this service, the patient could not be offered the jab.
The patient was sent back to the sexual health clinic, which again refused to provide the jab - leaving the person unable to receive the vaccine from any NHS service even if they offered to pay.
Another case involved a 73-year-old woman who was not old enough to receive a shingles vaccine from the practice – and was not allowed to pay to have this done.
Dr Molyneux said the only solution was to send patients off ‘into the private sector sunset’ to receive these services.
‘I'm not saying we should be able to charge for any patient service,’ he told conference. ‘Where there are gaps we should be sensible – not sending them to an unknown person. They should be able to get it done with their own GP where they are comfortable.’
Derby LMC’s Dr Yadavkrishnan Pasupathi said the current system was wasting GPs’ talents and patients’ money by forcing them to go private.
Even though the motion was approved, a sizeable minority of GPs spoke against the motion. Dr Greg Place, from Nottinghamshire LMC, urged delegates to reject the motion.
‘If we say we have an unsustainable workload it is hypocritical to say we can do extra if patients pay,’ he said. He suggested he may support the motion in the future if the current workload problems were alleviated by then.
Tower Hamlets CCG’s Dr Naureen Bhatti warned approving the motion could start a slippery slope into privatisation by stealth.
She said: ‘This would bring about a two-tiered system. We start doing this and we will no longer have a system that’s free at the point of need.’
Dr Mike Griffiths, from Gwent LMC, added: ‘I think the risk is if we start charging for things the government will start finding more and more things for us to charge for – it will give them an excuse to do it.’