One in Three GPs back £10 charge for A&E Visits

3 January 2014

One in Three GPs back £10 charge for A&E Visits

A new survey carried out by the Press Association for an online network of doctors has found that a third of family doctors are in support of the introduction of patient fees to dissuade time-wasters from attending A&E units.

The survey for Doctors.net.uk, which obtained the views of 800 GPs across England, found that the doctors were of the opinion that extremely busy accident and emergency (A&E) departments did not require unnecessary visits, and that making people pay to attend would ensure those who required real assistance only attended A&E, preventing time wasters in the process from straining existing departments which are often hard pressed and under capacity.

A key question in the survey was whether people should pay £5 or £10 for each visit. Importantly the money would be refunded if their attendance was found to be justified. Exactly 32% of the doctors that were surveyed felt patient fees was a cost effective idea and would effectively organise A&E attendance.

Almost 40% felt that rising A&E attendance figures could be effectively dealt with by placing a GP surgery adjacent to every emergency department. These surgeries would have extended opening hours and would also, they believe, ensure the number of hospital admissions was better organised.

Other opinions canvassed from the survey included the belief that more NHS walk-in centres would help cut A&E numbers (11% thought this) and that the 111 phone service could be improved to help organise admissions better (8% thought this).

Dr Tim Ringrose, chief executive of Doctors.net.uk, said: "It may be a clear departure from the traditional NHS vision, but many doctors are now saying that radical action has to be taken to reverse the 'free at the point of abuse' culture that is a key contributor to the current emergency care crisis in some areas."

Helen Stokes-Lampard, from the Royal College Of General Practitioners, said: "Charging patients for the use of emergency departments would put us on the slippery slope towards the Americanisation of healthcare - where only those who can afford it get the care and attention they need.

"Doctors have a duty to provide healthcare to patients regardless of their ability to pay.

"Patients seek healthcare when they are at their most vulnerable and if they attend A&E, it is usually because they don't know where else to turn.

"Emergency departments are really struggling but the way to solve the crisis is to adequately fund general practice, so that family doctors can provide more care for patients in the community.

"GPs conduct 90% of the NHS contacts for just 8.39% of the NHS budget.

"If general practice was better funded many people who are seen in emergency departments could be seen by a local GP."

The findings of the survey are in stark contrast to the earlier belief that changes announced in November 2013 by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt would help to ease pressure on A&E units by better organising GP contracts. Almost three quarters of those surveyed (74%) felt giving older people a named GP would not cut numbers ending up in A&E, with only one in ten doctors of the opinion that this would ease pressure on the existing system.

What are your views on the proposal of a paid for A&E service? Would it result in better organisation of A&E attendance and ensure those who really need help are seen and prioritised? Is it patently unfair and dangerously close to approaching a Medicare system such as in the USA?

Whether you have experienced A&E care and treatment that you feel fell below the standards you expected or require advice about the GP treatment and advice you received, Mistreatment.com has a number of specialist teams who can provide you with support, help, advice and guidance so that you know exactly what your patient and healthcare rights are and where you stand.