GPs from across the UK have rejected calls to introduce a charge for access to general practice.
The proposal was debated and voted on at the Local Medical Committee (LMC) conference in York.
During the debate, GPs expressed concern about the extreme funding pressures facing general practice, but agreed that patients should not be penalised because of a funding shortfall from government.
Many GP leaders have complained that general practice is under increasing pressure due to rising demand from an ageing population with increasingly complex medical needs, but is without the necessary investment in staff, resources and premises to meet this challenge.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul (pictured), chair of the British Medical Association GP Committee, said: “Many GPs are frustrated and concerned about the future of general practice given that many GP practices are struggling from a combination of rising patient demand, falling funding and more work being moved from hospitals into the community. Six out of ten GPs recently told a BMA survey they were considering retiring from general practice.
“In this climate, it is understandable that the Local Medical Committee (LMC) Conference wanted to debate the need for extra funding for overstretched GP services. But introducing a charge for services would be a tax on illness, hit the most vulnerable the hardest and threaten to undermine the principle of an NHS free at the point of delivery.
“Introducing a financial transaction would undermine the trust between doctor and patient. If patients are deterred from seeing their GP due to an additional cost this could result in their illness deteriorating and costing the NHS even more.
“GPs have today sent a resounding message that charging patients is not the solution to the financial crisis facing the NHS. The BMA is committed to a health service that is free at the point of need and accessible to all and we should proud to have an NHS GP service where no one has to pay to get the treatment they need.”