Concept of GP fees floated
The private health insurance industry should be preparing for an end to free primary care services on the NHS, according to Wayne Pontin, chairman of the Association of Medical Insurance Intermediaries (AMII).
Speaking at AMII’s annual Private Healthcare Summit yesterday, he said it will “not be long” before patients have to pay for primary care in the same way they pay for optical and dental services.
He said the industry should be looking to develop top up products, similar to cash plans, which can plug any gaps created by NHS reforms and “deliver a partnership between public and private care”.
Pontin (pictured) said: “I can’t say exactly what products we need because I do not know what is going to come out of the NHS reforms, but we need to be looking at top up products.”
During a debate at the summit, the idea that people may be charged to see their GP in the UK – in the same way they are in other European countries such as Ireland and France – was floated.
Keith Biddlestone, commercial director at HCA International, said: “The NHS is unaffordable and at some point the economics are going to push us down the path of charging for services, regardless of what the politicians say.
“This is a line we are going to cross very soon. We are going to have to start looking at countries such as France, where the idea that healthcare is free is an alien concept.”
When asked during a later question and answer session whether GP fees could be introduced, Stephen Dorrell MP, chair of the Health Select Committee, did not give an unequivocal answer.
He said: “In an integrated system of health and social care, some services will be charged for and some will not. The idea that health and social care are totally separate and no new charges will be introduced does not stand up to what has happened over the past few decades.”
Moreover, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has today published an analysis of the funding challenges facing the NHS, which suggests that the health service may need to review which services it provides for free.