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Dr Charles Tannock MEP backs £10 charge for GP visits

Charles Tannock Some of press are crying "new Tory NHS row" this morning after a Conservative politician with a background in medicine spoke out in favour of charges for people to see their GP - and fines if they fail to attend appointments.

The politician in question is Dr Charles Tannock, a former consultant psychiatrist, who has been a London MEP since 1999 and is a regular contributor to the CentreRight blog on this site.

He told Channel 4 News:

"I would be totally in favour of small co-payments, small payments being made if you turn up to things and perhaps small fines being levied if you do not. I know they are controversial but I don't think people who are in a job would be against say spending £10 to see their GP or being fined £10 if they don't show up to an out-patients, so that's the sort of thing I would like to see."

Dr Tannock also backed a pay freeze for doctors:

"Right now the doctors in the NHS are the most highly paid doctors in the public health services in the whole of Europe, possibly the world, so maybe we may have to have a freeze on doctors' pay in the future."

Andrew Lansley, the shadow health secretary, quickly moved to reject the idea of co-payments as mooted by Dr Tannock - as we reported was the position last month:

"Charles may say 'oh well £10 to see a GP' - well that would not make any difference to hospital care and frankly, if you tried to put in such a system, by the time you have done all the bureaucracy of raising the money and levying some fines, you would not be raising any money for the NHS anyway."

11am update: Dr Tannock has commented on the thread below to further explain his position in the light of a 15 minute interview being cut into a short soundbite out of context:

"I feel I have to comment as C4 news interviewed me for 15 mins but only quoted a small part of the interview. They didnt broadcast my disclaimer that I was speaking prsonally not for my party and based on my 15 years of medical work in the NHS. First of all I made it clear I fully support the NHS as a much cherished national institution but do not feel it is so sacrosanct we cannot openly debate its future as politicians and what reforms we would personally favour to help raise finance, make it more efficient and business like without it becoming a fully fledged busines as such. Working for years in the NHS as a doctor I was always struck by the waste of non attenders who didnt bother to cancel their OPD appointments but simply didnt bother to show. I also contoversially 15 years ago with a fellow Consultant complained at the number of overseas visitors not entitled to use the NHS who used our services in central London but no effort was made by NHS managers to police this or charge them. A small charge for GP visits would capture some of this cost as well.

I, believe the NHS offers good value for money to UK taxpayers (9% GDP vs eg 17% in USA)and offers a necessary universal cover to all our citizens. The idea of a 100% private sector driven one, favoured by some of my colleagues, in the UK would be totally unaffordable as the private sector is the most expensive in Europe and operates in the UK as a cartel on the basis of what the market will bear ( I once had a thriving private practice myself) rather than what is a reasonable charge for the work done, so unless those who support a private system would be prepared to cap private medical and hospital charges like the rest of Europe does it would never work.

I cherish the NHS and both my family and I are users but the press hysteria generated by such a comment as mine is ridiculous (Daily Mirror called it an outrageous charge on the sick). Lastly for those who didnt read the transcript I clearly said a small charge for those "in work". All UK citizens unless exempt by low pay, pensioners, expectant mothers etc already pay a smal charge for visits to your NHS dentist, for an NHS prescription so why a GP visit is different I dont know. In some instances I am sure it would be far more appropriate for the public to visit the practice nurse or consult NHS on line rather than need to see a doctor, as experineced nurses are perfectly capable of filtering the more urgent cases from the less so, so maybe the 10 pound charge would make people think a litle if there is a need to actually straight away consult a doctor.

We face an ever rising health service cost in the UK and David Cameron is right to ringfence health spending with a rising elderly population and expensive new drug and high tech treatments over the horizon so costs will inevitably escalate and we must provide a first class service as a civilised country and an advanced economy to all UK residents so practical suggestions like mine are just a small contribution to the debate which should be an open one. I also stated I didnt agree with Dan Hannan on his analysis of the workings of the NHS but totally support his right to air his views."

Jonathan Isaby


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