Our NHS does a great job but right now it is in trouble.
Everyday across the UK, there are four million people queuing up outside surgeries for a same-day medical appointment and those patients are feeling the effects of a system that has been drained: drained of resources, drained of morale and most definitely drained of money.
The solution is really very simple – pay to go private and you will help ease the burden on the NHS.
As we all know, GPs are stretched beyond capacity and hospitals are at breaking point. I believe that the answer to easing this intensely growing pressure is to invite patients who can afford it to choose to use private practitioners at least some of the time.
The recent establishment and growth of chains like the London Doctors Clinic has meant you don’t have to be super-rich to see a private doctor and you can book a quick appointment at any time for around £50. You can also pop in to organise things like GP letters saying you are fit to run the Paris marathon, jump out of a plane or fly at 28 weeks pregnant.
As an NHS doctor and private practitioner myself, I have no doubt the institution provides an incredible service to patients, particularly those suffering from chronic illnesses. However, when it comes to providing quick appointments to people at convenient times, there is clearly an issue.
This crisis of convenience is caused at least in part by capitation. This is the way GPs are paid in the UK. It means your GP gets paid for the number of patients registered with them rather than the number of times they see you.
If you are a male below the age of 45, your GP will get paid about £80 per year if you never go to see them and nothing more if you go 100 times. Over many years, the number of times you need to see your GP has been worked out fairly well so the numbers do tend to work out financially – so long as the GPs manage their access rigorously. This means that customer service and patient convenience have to be sacrificed – at least a little – even by the most well-meaning and conscientious GPs who are doing their absolute best under very difficult circumstances.
I am not advocating that the NHS moves to a fee-paying system because it would bankrupt the NHS overnight. I do believe, however, that we should adopt a system whereby NHS GPs and private doctors work in parallel with each other and are both accepted avenues of mainstream care – working with each other, not against each other.
Paying to see a private doctor would help the NHS cope with the rising demands on its finite resources. Those resources are best spent on the most vulnerable patients in society – the elderly, children and those suffering chronic illness.
If, as a society, we are looking for convenience over essential healthcare, is it our moral duty to pay for it? Perhaps.
Of course you have paid for the NHS already with your taxes and it will always be there when you need it. It does an excellent job of looking after the big essential life-saving stuff – but if you need to squeeze an appointment into an 11am slot in your very busy schedule, why not pay for it yourself and do a very overstretched health system a favour?
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