Appointment fee could restore trust in GPs, says senior GPC member

Charging patients for appointments could help restore their trust in GPs, the GPC member behind a controversial debate at this year's LMCs conference will argue.

Dr Helena McKeown: proposing charge for GP appointments (photo: Pete Hill)
Dr Helena McKeown: proposing charge for GP appointments (photo: Pete Hill)

Wiltshire GP Dr Helena McKeown will tell the LMCs conference in York on Thursday that proposing charging patients for GP visits ‘brings me no pleasure’.

But she will argue that years of underfunding have caused ‘untold damage’ to UK general practice, which now faces a growing recruitment crisis and unsustainable workload.

The motion, to be debated around 2pm on Thursday, will call on the GPC 'to explore national charging for general practice services with the UK governments'.

‘The time has come to lead our profession in putting a true price on the value of UK general practice,’ Dr McKeown will warn LMC leaders.

‘A fixed fee for some services for some patients will emphasise our value.’

Patient trust in GPs eroded

Dr McKeown will tell the conference that referral management schemes, prescription switching and linking GPs to commissioning groups and their focus on budgets have undermined patients’ trust in general practice.

Extra funding for the service would help to liberate GPs from ‘political control’and enable GPs to focus on patients’ welfare, she will say.

‘Support for this motion will force the government to display honesty and address the underfunding in general practice compared with the NHS budget as a whole,' Dr McKeown will argue.

‘Support for this motion shows respect to general practice and more doctors will want to be a part of it, rather than retire or be a part of Australian privatised healthcare.

Poll: should GPs charge for appointments?

‘UK general practice is admired throughout the world but years of underfunding have caused untold damage. It is lost to the NHS at its peril. Let’s agree to at least consider how we might fund the sort of high quality general practice that we want to provide our patients.’

Reacting to the motion after the LMC conference agenda was published, former RCGP chairwoman Professor Clare Gerada said on Twitter that the concept was against RCGP policy and that in her view it was a 'desperate motion for desperate times' intended to publicise the crisis in general practice.

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