A growing number of GPs want to charge patients £10 for consultations to stop them missing appointments and pestering doctors with problems unrelated to health, a survey released today shows.

A growing number of GPs want to charge patients £10 for consultations to stop them missing appointments and pestering doctors with problems unrelated to health, a survey released today shows.

Four hundred GPs across Britain were asked if they thought a £10 charge on some patients for consultations was a good idea.

In England, 52 per cent of those asked supported the principle compared with 45 per cent asked the same question three years ago, according to the survey published in General Practitioner newspaper.

Professor Colin Francome of the department of medical sociology at Middlesex University, who carried out the survey, said: "These findings are significant, it is the first majority vote we have had - in the past doctors have not supported it."

The last annual representative meeting of the British Medical Association voted against charging for NHS consultations. But many doctors tell stories of patients failing to turn up or booking consultations to ask for advice on social, housing and domestic problems. There have been cases of patients booking consultations so their doctor can sign their passport and of patients calling a doctor out and then not being at home.

Those who support the charge feel it would act as a deterrent to people abusing the system.

Grant Kelly, a GP from Chichester, told General Practitioner: "I think it would wake people up to the fact that the NHS has to be paid for. The British don't value our healthcare system and they need to."

But there was less supportamong Scottish GPs; only 34 per cent of those questioned backed the idea.

A GP from Stirling, Brian Keighley, said: "The ethos of the NHS is far more alive in Scotland than in England." Mary Church, of Lanarkshire, added: "Charging would be a deterrent for families on low income - if you were to make it means tested there would be a difficulty on where to draw the line."

*A drop in the number of people donating their organs as a result of debate over the use of anaesthetic when removing organs from "brain dead" people would be "a tragedy", the Department of Health said yesterday.

Uncertainty among the families of potential donors could lead to a decrease in organs available for transplant, a spokeswoman for the department said.

The issue has been raised by an anaesthetist who said he would not carry an organ donor card until anaesthetic is routinely given to all organ donors diagnosed as brain dead.

Philip Keep, a consultant anaesthetist at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, said he was "very much in favour" of organ transplant, but until it was clear whether a person was alive or could feel pain, he personally would not be donor.

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