Letter: NHS charges

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The Independent Online
Sir: A large proportion of GP consultations end quickly with the doctor saying: "Well, I'm sure this is nothing serious and that it will clear up in a few days; but if it doesn't don't hesitate to come and see me again." This is a very cheap way of using the doctor's knowledge and experience. Most patients do not need to come back. It is one of the reasons why the GP service gives such good value for money.

If you ask the patient to pay for this two-minute consultation, he will want a full physical examination, an X-ray, blood tests - the lot. As a retired GP, I am not in principle against the idea of charging people for the doctor's services; but if we are to go down that road, as the British Medical Association is now suggesting (report, 3 October), then the system will break down unless patients are given the option of a very cheap, or preferably free, two minutes with the doctor, which if it does not resolve the matter, can lead to a longer, more expensive, consultation.

Dr ROGER JAMES

Portsmouth, Hampshire

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