A GP practice in Dorset has become the first in the UK the effectively allow patients to queue-jump to see a doctor - for a price!
The practice in Dorset, which uses the same premises in which it sees NHS patients, circumvents the current rules of the GP contract prohibiting General Practitioners from seeing their own NHS patients privately by only seeing patients not registered in the practice - at the expense of their own NHS patients.
Current patients of the Poole Road Medical Practice typically wait 4 weeks for a routine appointment to see a GP, while those being seen under the umbrella of Dorset Private GP can pay £80 for a 20 minute appointment or £145 for a 40 minute appointment. 10 minute phone consultations - routinely provided at many GP practices as a means of dealing with urgent patient requests and enquiries - are offered at £40 for a consultation.
The UK Government has yet to comment on the situation, while the lack of condemnation for the move could signal a general acceptance of this mode of operating to other GP practices, again at the expense of their NHS patients. It has been repeatedly suggested that lack of easy access to GP appointments increases demand on secondary care services such as A+E. The current crisis situation facing many emergency departments throughout England led to Jeremy Hunt suggesting the 4-hour waiting target should be abandoned as being ineffective, to allow the focus of services elsewhere.
The practice operating the private scheme offers its paying patients services from 8am-8pm Monday to Friday, with similar hours on Saturdays. By comparison, the same practice sees NHS patients from 8.30am-6.30pm. The lead GP for the private service, also working at the practice, refused to comment on whether he thought the move was 'ethical' when questioned by a national newspaper.