More than half of Britons wouldn’t pay for GP appointments to keep local practices from closing

More than half of Britons do not support paying for a GP appointment, even if payment protected their local GP surgery from closure, according to a new ComRes poll commissioned by political communications specialist The Whitehouse Consultancy.

Despite charges existing for dentist appointments and prescriptions, the poll for The Whitehouse Consultancy found that 56 per cent of British adults oppose the idea of a £10 charge for a GP appointment, even if such a charge kept their local practice open. Approximately a quarter of the British public (27 per cent) support the idea of a £10 charge, a figure that falls to just 15 per cent (72 per cent opposed) if the cost of an appointment was £20. The poll also found that just eight per cent of Britons would accept a charge for a GP appointment if it helped reduce the budget deficit.

The findings follow comments made by the Royal College of GPs’ (RCGP) Chair Dr Maureen Baker that GP services were “under severe threat of extinction” due to the scale of patient demands. The RCGP has claimed that the proportion of the NHS budget spent on GP services has fallen from approximately 11 per cent in 2005 to approximately 8.39 per cent. The RCGP has also predicted that patients will fail to get a GP appointment while unwell on 34 million occasions this year.

The survey for The Whitehouse Consultancy also found that only one in ten Britons (10 per cent) would support a £20 charge for a GP appointment if a charge meant them paying less tax, and only 12 per cent of respondents would pay to guarantee an appointment the next day. Nearly half of Britons (44 per cent) oppose a £20 charge for a GP appointment being levied on individuals earning more than £150,000 per annum, although a similar proportion support this (47 per cent).

Chris Whitehouse, Chairman of The Whitehouse Consultancy, said:

“The British public clearly feel the NHS should remain faithful to its founding principles of being free at the point of use. While the public might already pay for glasses, prescriptions and dentist appointments, they will evidently have no truck with paying to see a GP – even if that were to prevent their local practice from closing.

“GPs across the country are facing unprecedented demands on their time and resources, and the RCGP has been very vocal in its warnings about the future of the profession and the need for increased funding. How any funding gap is addressed will be crucial to the future of the NHS, but the public has shown it does think it should be footing an additional bill.”