1/3 of GPs BACK £10 CHARGE OF A&E
A poll carried out by Press Association for Doctors.net.uk with more than 800 family doctors found that 32% were in favour of the charge seeing it as the most cost effective way of cutting down on the people who could have gone to their GP or a pharmacist. One doctor argued: ‘If patients had to pay a £5 charge to attend A&E – that could be refunded for appropriate attendances – they would be more inclined to take their coughs to the pharmacist where they belong.’ Recent overcrowd and increased demand of A&E have prompted some doctors to back the charge of either 10 or 5 pound to significantly reduce the number of unnecessary visits where people are in no need of urgent medical attention. If the condition of a patient is shown to need attention then their money would be refunded to them. Around 30% to 40% of all visits to A&E could have been seen elsewhere because illnesses were minor or not urgent believed by A&E specialists.
However this decision has prompted anger from members of the public who feel they have no choice but to got to casualty because they cannot see their GP – especially at evenings and weekends. General public opinion on the matter has not been received positively of the matter with many people believing that the costs outweigh the benefits. Residents in Birmingham said, “It might stop people going because of the cost but others might think that paying a tenner was a good deal to be seen by an A&E doctor” and also, “What nonsense! We already pay for the NHS now we have to pay again? It will just make the sick and elderly hesitant on going to A&E as they can’t afford it. People will die! all to save a couple of quid here and there!
Dr Tim Ringrose, chief executive of Doctors.net.uk acknowledged that charging fees would be a ‘clear departure from the traditional NHS vision’ however he also stated: ‘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. 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.”
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the British Medical Association’s GP committee, said that pressures on the NHS would not be solved by “penalising less well-off patients by erecting financial barriers within the health service”. The survey also showed widespread scepticism about the Government’s plans to alleviate the A&E crisis by expanding the role of GPs. The plan is a key pillar of the new GP contract, hailed by the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt as the return of “proper family doctors”. Mr Hunt has previously blamed the increase of visits at A&E wards since 2004 on changes to the GP contract introduced by Labour, which allowed family doctors to opt out of providing an out-of-hours care service. The College of Emergency Medicine has said the problem is rooted in a staffing crisis, warning that the country has a shortage of 375 emergency doctors and that Government must be accountable.
However, the truth of the matter is that there are many other important factors concerning the strain on A&E. One mediating factor is the long waiting times to see a GP which can often mean people visit their emergency service as an alternative. See below for Conservative policies on health. They say they have delivered on their set-out targets but needless to say, both the public and the healthcare professionals have highlighted aspects of the NHS that need to be addressed and improved quickly.
What the Conservative Government have promised…
“The bigger picture”:
• An increase in the budget available to the NHS every year.
• To give doctors and nurses the freedom to design services for their patients yet this possible A&E fee may contrast with the patients’ wishes of the NHS
• To give patients more power over how and where they are treated E.G. They have passed the Health and Social Care Act, which introduces greater protections for patients to ensure that they get the choices they are entitled to.
• To deliver lower waiting times, fewer hospital infections, more doctors, and the cancer drugs that patients need.