‘£10 charge for visiting A&E is nonsense’ – leading Sunderland GP

Dr. Roger Ford
Dr. Roger Ford
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A LEADING Sunderland doctor has dismissed claims that a high numbers of GPs in the city would be in favour of charging patients for trips to casualty.

A survey found that just under one in three family doctors said introducing a controversial patients’ fee system for some visits would be the most cost-effective way of reducing A&E attendances.

They feel that by charging patients £5 or £10 each visit it would stop many going to A&E to seek treatment.

Refunds would, however, be given out to patients if it was found that the trip was necessary.

Pressure on A&E departments continues to be a massive problem for the NHS in Sunderland.

Bosses at Sunderland Royal saying they have seen attendances rocket between seven and eight per cent over the past year, putting huge pressure on the system.

But Roger Ford, secretary of Sunderland Local Medical Committee, who has been a GP in the city for more than 30 years, said in his view the measure is not one which doctors would like to see brought in.

“I don’t really think the survey’s findings represents the profession,” said Dr Ford.

“There is no doubt that inappropriate attendances by patients at A&E departments does unnecessary worsen those departments.

“However, charging patients is highly unlikely to solve the problem and indeed it will be self-defeating because of additional work required to administer such a system.

“This is not a new idea, and it is normally resisted by the profession.”

The Doctors.new.uk survey also revealed 11 per cent of those who took part said they feel that more walk-in centres would help to ease the strain, while eight per cent said an improved non-emergency 111 phone service could be a way of further reducing attendances.

Dr Tim Ringrose, chief executive of Doctors.net.uk. which is an online network of GPs, said: “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?

“Improving the relationship and interface between primary care doctors and their secondary care colleagues is critical.

“The 2014 contracts seeks to address this, but does it go far enough?

“The response from GPs suggests that a more integrated approach is needed – one that enables them to physically work alongside emergency departments in providing out-of-hours care, rather than rely on telephone consultations.”