Will patients be charged in the future for using their GP?
Ever since the NHS began in 1948, it has been a fundamental principle that it was free at the point of use. However, over the years the availability of private health care to supplement the NHS has become more common.
Now though, it has emerged that Oxfordshire Local Medical Committee (LMC) is considering taking GPs out of the NHS in a move that could potentially lead to them charging patients directly for some GP services.
The plans are being made due to disillusionment at ongoing negotiations with the Government. While it is by no means certain that such a step will be taken, if it does then it could have significant legal implications.
At present, there is a duty for GPs to provide necessary and appropriate services to patients. Given that there is an almost always a duty of care between GP and patient, this means that in the event of something going wrong (such as a failure to diagnose or refer) and provided that the test in Bolam can be satisfied, there is a potential claim in negligence.
However, imagine a situation in which a GP, outside of the NHS, can turn away a patient that cannot afford to pay. As is the case with private health care, it is arguable that in such a case, no duty of care will ever exist. If no duty of care exists, there can be no negligence on behalf of the GP.
There is a real and present danger that such a situation could lead to a two tier health system in which the poorest in society are unable to access healthcare and also have no legal redress as a result.
We at Coffin Mew act on behalf of patients who have suffered injuries through negligence by medical practitioners and are committed to ensuring that they obtain the compensation they are entitled to, irrespective of their financial means.
For further information, please contact our Catastrophic Injury and Clinical Negligence team on 023 9236 6010.