Charging for GP appointments not the solution to NHS pressures

Professor Kamila Hawthorne has written to The Sunday Times opposing charges for GP appointments. A slightly abridged version of the following has been published today:

Sir - Charging for GP appointments might seem like a shrewd way to address resource and demand issues facing the NHS. It isn’t.

It would add an extra layer of bureaucracy to a service already drowning in red tape, when what GPs and our teams need is more time with our patients.

It would act as a deterrent to people seeking care, risking later diagnoses, poorer health outcomes, and public health. The cost of living crisis shows that it’s not only those on lowest incomes who are having to prioritise between heating and eating: it would be dangerous to add healthcare to this.

Fundamentally, it would change the principle on which the NHS is founded: that care is free at the point of need for anyone who needs it. NHS staff should not be put in the position of turning patients away when they potentially need care because they cannot pay.

NHS pressures need to be addressed with investment and better workforce planning - not by introducing a charging system that will make things worse.

Professor Kamila Hawthorne
Chair, Royal College of GPs
London NW1

Further information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7633

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 54,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.