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Posted on 30th January 2017

GPs to start charging patients

A group of GPs are planning to charge patients for weekend and evening appointments, breaking the NHS rules.

The scheme is to allow patients to pay if they wish to see a doctor more quickly at their surgery, or if they wish to have non-cancerous moles removed or vasectomies. These services are not usually offered at a family surgery as the NHS does not pay GPs to offer them.

Currently contracts between surgeries and the NHS forbids doctors to charge their patients for any care they receive.

However, Prit Buttar, a senior GP in Oxfordshire, told The Times: There is a huge gulf between the resources the nation has put into general practice and what it expects,” he said. “You can either reduce demand or you can increase the funding, and if the state will not increase funding, we have to do it some other way.”

He is currently developing the plans with other GPs across the country, as he says funding at surgeries has been cut or withdrawn. 

Dr Buttar has been in discussion with local medical committees to get the new system in place by the end of this year.

They hope to get around the NHS contracts by asking patients to pay a third-party company, who then employ the GP for their time.

Dr Buttar went on to say that any private arrangements at a practice must not affect NHS patients in urgent need of treatment.

These proposals were exposed by the doctor’s magazine Pulse and reflects the dissatisfaction felt by GPs across the country, despite them earning more than £100,000 per year on average.

“If the state wants GPs to open late but it isn’t prepared to pay an adequate sum to cover the costs, I don’t see why they shouldn’t be at liberty to come to a private arrangement to provide it.” He added: “If people decided they wanted a longer appointment on a Saturday or Sunday, the GP might say, ‘I value my time at this amount’, and then they could decide”, continued Dr Battar, who has recently retired.

Many doctors have criticised the plans outlined by Dr Battar. Clare Gerada, a GP in London, told The Times: “I am a firm believer in the NHS and that people should not be mixing private and public at all. I think it corrupts because you never know whether the decision is made according to your best interests or to make money.”

NHS England has yet to approve the plans and have said: “All patients have a right to access high-quality primary care services which are free at the point of delivery. Strict safeguards are in place to ensure that GPs cannot charge patients for NHS services."

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