Unh?! Charging for medical care

A third of GPs reportedly support the idea of patients at A&E forfeiting £10 if their visit was unmerited. Like so many calls for privatising and charging for things – it fails in principle and in practice.

It would never work. Who is going to police the taking and returning the £10 notes? Who is going to turn people away at the door, whether they’re bleeding or just worried?  Not the GPs who reportedly support this idea, I bet!

What happens when you charge people for a service? They become customers who will insist on their consumer rights. They won’t take no for answer, and might even insist on free wifi in the waiting room where they will spend all day, having paid their money!

The problem is rarely that people are in the waiting room. A&E problems are based inside the hospital, after the triage nurse has worked out that patients do need to be seen.

So where did this idea come from? I guess it emanates from our governing belief that charging for a service will solve its problems. All the main parties have signed up to this kind of market thinking. Of the four main parties, only the Green Party recognises that health care, like policing, and fire services are proof that charging can result in exactly the opposite of what is needed. the market isn’t always the best way to distribute resources. Healthcare is a complex and human-centred service. Charging for it misses important points, for example our needs when we fall sick.

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