BBC Somerset Sound, perhaps seeking respite from election fever, had me on today to respond to the suggestion that we should pay to see our GP.
The suggestion arose from a tiny poll (n=440) in Pulse, a GP newspaper, where 51% of the self-selected sample said they would want this. It also arose last November after a conservative think tank, Reform, put it forward, which was picked up buy local BBC radio.
I pointed out that it was a tiny poll, and that serious GP leaders reject the idea.
Like so many conservative wheezes, it will backfire, not just because even more would go to A&E instead of GP (which would then require payment to be seen at A&E), and many poor people would delay presentation of serious illness, which could lead to hospitalisation (more expense), morbidity and mortality.
A further blowback is that people would feel entitled, having paid, to get what they wanted. "I paid £25 to see you, and I'm not leaving until I've had an MRI".
In the USA, the costs of private medicine push the litigation culture, as people try to recoup their medical bills by suing for malpractice.
Add the cost of administration of the scheme, and dreams that it would raise billions for the NHS dissolve.
Paying to see GPs is not the way forward. However, we must expect over the next few years for the proposal to keep on cropping up until it is at last introduced. Because that is what the private sector "health care" sector wants, and what they want is what they will eventually get. Unless the UK public one day wake up from the trance induced by corporate media and stand up for the NHS. One day.
Anyway, my thanks to BBC Somerset Sound for having me on. I disturbed the presenter a bit by referring scathingly to "Tory Tabloids" and to the BBC's failure to discuss the Health and Social Care Act and fulfil its Reithian calling to educate and inform the public. But it is good for the BBC to carry a bit of self criticism.
PS As with all neo-liberal attacks on the common good, there is a grain of truth wrapped up in their lying case. Demand on GP services is steadily rising, due to a number of factors. The answer to this problem lies in patient education, starting with teaching them not to attend with self-limiting illness like coughs, colds and sore throats. Another reform that would reduce demand is to abolish "fit notes" - medical certificates.