GPs could introduce charges for NHS services, Labour claims

GPs could be given the power to introduce charges for NHS services under the reforms set out in the Health Bill, Labour has claimed.

John Healey: the government must prevent GPs from ‘outsourcing the commissioning job to the private sector’
John Healey: the government must prevent GPs from ‘outsourcing the commissioning job to the private sector’

Labour leader Ed Miliband said clause 9 of the Bill removed the role of the secretary of state in determining what services the NHS must provide and transfers that responsibility to GPs. In addition, clause 22 could give GPs the powers to charge for services, he said.

At a press briefing, Mr Miliband said he believed the prime minister wanted to maintain an NHS that is free at the point of contact and asked: ‘Why are there new rules on charging?’

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said such increases in power would not be welcomed by GPs. ‘This is not something GPs want to see,’ he said. ‘They do not want to see any development that increases charging for NHS service.’

Dr Vautrey was unsure whether Labour’s concerns were well founded and questioned the reasoning behind these provisions in the Bill. ‘We need to understand the legal situation more and I would like to hear from the government what their intention is for this clause,’ he said.

The Conservative party has rebuked Mr Miliband’s claims. In a statement it said: ‘The Bill does not allow GPs to charge for NHS services. Any charges for NHS services must be introduced by primary legislation, as set out in the original NHS Act in 1946.’

At the press briefing, shadow health secretary John Healey said the government must prevent GPs from ‘outsourcing the commissioning job to the private sector’.

Editor's blog: Will Andrew Lansley and his Health Bill allow GPs greater opportunities to charge patients?

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