Allow practices to charge for services, senior GP tells peers

A senior GP advisor to NHS England has called for practices to be allowed to charge patients for services not available on the NHS.

Sir Sam Everington (Photo: Pete Hill)

Sir Sam Everington, chairman of Tower Hamlets CCG and a national advisor to NHS England's new care models programme, told a House of Lords inquiry on Monday that GPs should be enabled to charge on a fee-for-service basis for treatments not available for free.

The comments came as the government was attacked for apparently refusing to rule out NHS charging during a House of Commons debate.

The criticism came after senior Tory backbencher Sir Edward Leigh - speaking in parliament on Tuesday - suggested that either taxes would have to rise to fund the NHS, or the government may have to ‘think the unthinkable and charge people’. In reply, health minister Philip Dunne said simply that emerging sustainability and transformation plans (STPs) would help address some of the problems in the NHS.

Podcast: What do STPs mean for GPs?

Shadow health minister Justin Madders told the Independent that it ‘beggars belief’ that ministers had not rejected the ‘ridiculous’ idea of introducing charges during health questions in the Commons.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth tweeted asking: ‘Why didn't the health minister rule out NHS charges today in Commons?’

Mr Madders added: ‘I’m all for an honest debate about NHS finances, that is that we have been calling for, but that can never include charges.'

Sir Sam, giving evidence to the House of Lords committee on the long-term sustainability of the NHS, suggested that one way of tackling the winter crisis in the service would be to allow GPs to charge patients not eligible for a free flu vaccine, helping to build herd immunity.

GP flu vaccination

‘The way to do that is to enable GPs, for example, to charge the £10 to vaccinate those patients who are non-eligible in the NHS for a flu vaccination,' he said.

‘At the moment a pharmacist can do it. But a GP can't,' he said. Sir Sam, a BMA council member, said practices should be able to keep the money charged. ‘Fee for service where it is not available on the NHS,' he said.

Because individual lifestyle is so important in determining health, Sir Sam told peers, people investing their money in their healthcare should become as normal as going on a holiday.

‘I think there is a serious issue about how we on the whole have discouraged within the system people investing their time, resources, their community and their incomes in their own health and wellbeing. And you can change that,' he said.

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