Would charging for GP appointments
be so bad?

“Doctor, doctor I swallowed a bone!”

“Are you choking?”

“No, I really did!”

 

“Doctor, doctor I feel like a pack of cards!

“I’ll deal with you later…”

 

“Doctor, doctor, I’ve got a bunged up nose and a headache. Can you prescribe me something?”

“Go home, take some Paracetamol and get some rest”.

 

The third statement is not amusing, okay so the others aren’t exactly side splitting, but the third statement is just irritating, but it’s a frequent occurrence across the country.

Far too many people take their GP service for granted; they book an appointment for minor ailments that only need over the counter medication and rest, and they book appointments and then fail to turn up. The reason they take it for granted is because the appointment is free and there are absolutely no consequences for their behaviour.

The fact the our health service is free at the point of use is a wonderful principle, which I would like to uphold for most services. Sadly though, when things that are “free” this invariably effect people’s behaviour.

You can see this with free prescriptions for children. When my son had his first bout of diarrhoea and sickness, the pharmacist gave us a huge bottle of Calpol that lasted for a year and eight boxes of Dioralyte sachets, which we still have nearly two years later. This happened because it cost us nothing and it cost the pharmacy nothing (except, of course, in wasted taxes); it was disproportionate and wasteful.

I’m extremely grateful and heartened that children in our country are able to access free medication. We do however have to look at the negative side effects and think of ways of discouraging wasteful behaviour. Displaying the price on mediation and restricting the amount that can be handed out in certain cases, for example.

Fully grown adults, however, have no excuse whatsoever for acting like wimps and wasting their doctor’s time with the common cold and petty ailments. They need to get a grip and get some medicine from the pharmacist, they can even use the internet to check their symptoms and use some home remedies. Just get yourself wrapped up in bed and sleep it off!

Neither is there any reasonable excuse for booking a GP appointment and then failing to turn up and not cancelling. It is terribly rude and disrespectful, but also a waste of resources.

People acting like this are wasting time and resources needed for the elderly, the long term sick and those in genuine need of diagnosis. A generally healthy individual should not need to make an appointment with their GP very often at all. Most illnesses simply pass with rest and have symptoms that can be mitigated with over the counter medicine. With this in mind, would it be so bad to charge a small fee for GP appointments? I think not.

If a normally healthy individual develops symptoms that concern them which they wish to speak to their doctor about, would they really be put off by a small initial fee? Not if it was affordable and set in such a way that it didn’t become punitive.

I propose an initial fee of £10, there would be no charge for a follow up appointments if they were deemed necessary by the GP, there would be no charge for the disabled or those with long term illnesses in need of frequent monitoring and no charge for those on welfare.

This, it seems to me, is such a minor policy change, yet the potential for changing people’s behaviour is massive. Just watch how quickly people would start managing their minor symptoms at home, and see how people would stop missing appointments and make way for those in need.

People would develop a healthy respect for the service and you may find that GPs, often exasperated by timewasters and under pressure, start being that little more attentive and giving better customer service.

Oh, and as rather a large added bonus; a study by the think-tank Reform concluded that this small measure alone could save the NHS £1.2 billion, savings it desperately needs to make.