Talking to GP, Dr Paul Charlson said the NHS should look to reduce patient expectations on services, rather than focusing on slimming down the supply side of the NHS.
He also called for the government to be more explicit about what services are available on the NHS and for whom it would provide treatment.
Dr Charlson said that growing patient demands on NHS services was the ‘real issue’ that needs to be addressed.
He warned that the supply side in the NHS ‘can only be made so lean’ and said focus should instead move towards changing patients’ ‘health seeking behaviours’.
Dr Charlson said: ‘The elephant in the room is why the cost of healthcare has gone up and why people are consulting GPs more.
‘Part of it is because patients have better access to information. But, part is of it also to do with people demanding care they want, but don’t actually need and clinicians are often too scared to say no.’ He suggested that patients need incentives to use services more effectively, such as through the use of personal budgets.
Dr Charlson said that he was ‘unsure how the NHS would survive’ if the demand side of NHS was not tackled. He also said co-payments, where patients pay for extra treatment in addition to the services provided to them on the NHS, could also be used as a way of saving money in the NHS.