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‘Private GPs are the only solution’

A business author has hailed a vote by GPs not to charge for appointments as proof private practices are the only option to relieve the NHS.

Delegates voted against charging at the British Medical Association’s annual GP (general practitioners) conference in York, but warned services were being stretched so much that care was being put at risk.

Dr Simon Hocken, a qualified dentist and author on reform in the dental sector, said: ‘The vote is admirable in light of GPs' rising workload, but nevertheless a lack of manpower, underfunding and missed and unnecessary appointments mean service delivery is in freefall.

‘A simple solution for some would be to start a private GP service – this would fix all three issues and it’s what dentists did when faced with the same problems.

‘Patient-centric improvements such as same-day service, seven-day opening and relationship-based care with longer, more in depth appointments are transforming oral health care and they are profitable, and I believe it’s the future for GPs.

‘The experience in dentistry is patients don’t value what they perceive as a free service.

‘Private patients come for their appointments because they are charged if they miss them, and they experience much better engagement and care because the business model is geared towards their needs, not the government budget.’

In England the share of the NHS budget given to GPs had been shrinking in recent years and now stood at under 9%, despite GPs dealing with 90% of patient contacts with the NHS.

This has happened during a period when the number of consultations has been rising by more than 10% over the past five years, to 340 million last year.

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I never charge my private patients for a first missed appointment and therefore don't believe they come to me because they fear being charged if they don't turn up. I have plenty of paperwork and clinical tasks I can usefully occupy my time with. If they fail a second appointment and they call to re-book I just put them at the very end of my 1 month waiting list. If fail the third appointment, they are then requested to pay for all three failed appointments before a new booking can be made. Personally I'd be very happy to pay a non-refundable deposit for my GP appointment of say thirty pounds. The first failed appointment would mean a lost deposit and then a new deposit of thirty pounds having to be made to book again. The GP system could benefit from introducing this or something similar.