GPs said the NHS was seriously underfunded, but reluctantly conceded that charging patients pounds 10 a time for treatment, and more than double that for a home visit, was not the way to remedy the problem.
Responding to last week's disclosure that the Government is considering extending patient charges as part of its review of the NHS's hard pressed pounds 44bn budget, the British Medical Association's annual conference of GPs yesterday reaffirmed its belief in a free service.
However, almost a third of the 500 representatives backed a call for the imposition of new charges to raise extra funds and deter trivial demands. The vote in favour of charges was the highest recorded by the BMA for more then a decade.
Dr Jonathan Reggler of Buckinghamshire told yesterday's conference in London that billions of pounds poured into the NHS from taxation was not enough and never would be.
Opponents of the proposal said the charges would be difficult to collect, expensive to administer and could threaten the doctor-patient relationship. Dr Stephen Amiel of Islington, north London, said: "Penalising the sick because they are sick is to my mind an obscenitity."Reuse content