GPs demand A&E charges

Health news
Health news

A THIRD of GPs believe patients should be charged for some A&E visits according to a new poll.

One in three family doctors, including those in Wigan, said introducing patient fees for some visits would be the most cost-effective way of cutting unnecessary A&E attendances.

Charging patients £5 or £10 every time would stop many people visiting A&E at the “drop of a hat”. Refunds could then be given if the trip was found to be necessary.

More than 800 GPs from across England answered the survey for, carried out for the Press Association.

Four in 10 (39 per cent) said placing a GP surgery - with extended opening hours - right next to every A&E department would help drive down the numbers seeking help and cut spiralling hospital admissions.

Meanwhile, 11 per cent think more NHS walk-in centres would help ease the strain on A&E, while eight per cent think an improved 111 phone service - set up to replace NHS Direct - could provide the answer.

The overwhelming majority said changes announced by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt in November regarding GP contracts would do little to help ease pressure on A&E, which is facing unprecedented demand from patients.

Mr Hunt said a 2004 contract for GPs, introduced under Labour, had enabled doctors to drop responsibility for out-of-hours care and put “huge pressure” on A&E departments.

He pledged to rectify this by offering all elderly patients and those with complex conditions access to a named GP, responsible for overseeing their care. GPs will also be given more responsibility for monitoring out-of-hours care and hospitals will have more access to GPs when considering whether to admit patients.

Today’s poll found three-quarters of GPs disagreed that giving older people a named GP would cut the numbers ending up in A&E (43 per cent strongly disagreed and a further 31 per cent somewhat disagreed).

Just one in 10 doctors agreed this would help alleviate pressures on the system.

Almost two-thirds also disagreed that giving hospitals greater access to GPs when thinking about admissions would aid struggling departments. More than half (53 per cent) also disagreed that giving GPs greater responsibility for monitoring out-of-hours care would improve out-of-hours care for patients.

Doctors reacted to Mr Hunt’s suggestion that allowing doctors to opt out of providing out-of-hours care was one of the reasons A&E departments are now seeing increasing numbers of patients.

Dr Tim Ringrose, chief executive of, an online network of doctors, said: “The emergency care crisis has been one of the most hotly debated healthcare topics. However, our research suggests that many GPs remain unconvinced that key changes to their contracts in 2014 will reduce the burden on emergency departments.

“So what is the answer and how can the NHS work in a more joined-up and cohesive way? With emergency departments increasingly being used for trivial complaints, it is not surprising that many GPs believe people who abuse the system should be hit in the pocket.”