Now THIS has the potential to kick up a storm. £20 to see your GP? In the supposedly free NHS? There's no way to justify it, is there? Personally, I think that there's some logic to it. More so, there's logic to introducing this idea to ambulance calls. I'd like to propose the following as a suggestion, and ask for your views on the idea. On every piece of paperwork we fill out for a patient, there's a box that says "Unnecessary Callout Fee". If it's signed by the paramedic and by a member of hospital staff, it means that both agree that this was a wasted journey for the ambulance, and the patient should be billed. Even if it's a small amount. Just slightly more than the taxi journey would cost.
Here's a list of arguments I've heard against:
1) This is the NHS - it should be free at the point of delivery
2) The people who call are often those who can't afford anything else
3) The decision would be very subjective, and dependent on the mood of the paramedic or triage nurse
4) These call-outs are the ones that keep paramedics in a job
I'm sure there are many others, but in the meantime, some counter-arguments to the above:
1) We already pay for NHS dentists and prescriptions, and the NHS is on the verge of collapse
2) The elderly, children, and those on things like income support would be exempt
3) You need to have a bit more faith in the professionalism of the NHS staff involved
4) Emergencies keep us in a job - that's what we're there for
This needn't be a money-making exercise. The idea would be to reduce the stubbed-toe call-outs, the paper-cut call-outs, the "I've had a pain in my shoulder for three months and decided that 4am on a weekend night is the best time to call" call-outs. In short, to reduce the pressure on the ambulance service, so that ambulances are available more often and more quickly for those calls where they are really needed. "Needed" doesn't necessarily mean life-threatening only. I fully accept that there is a plethora of genuine reasons to call, and agree that sometimes there's just no other answer. That's what we're here for. And no, I wouldn't want to charge you.
We need to get back to ambulances waiting for calls, and not calls waiting for ambulances.