A SWINDON doctor has hit back at the findings of a survey showing large numbers of GPs would support charges for accident and emergency department attendance.

Doctor Peter Swinyard, of Phoenix Surgery, based in Toothill, said introducing a fee, no matter how small, could have horrifying consequences for patients.

A poll conducted by Doctors.net.uk showed 32 per cent of the 800 GPs who took part in a survey said charging people £10 for going to A&E for conditions that were not an emergency would be the most cost-effective way of reducing pressure on the health service.

Doctors.net.uk chief executive Dr Tim Ringrose said: “It is not surprising many GPs believe people who abuse the system should be hit in the pocket.

“It may be a clear departure from the traditional NHS vision, but many doctors are saying radical action has to be taken to reverse the ‘free at the point of abuse’ culture that is a key contributor to the current emergency care crisis in some areas.”

The survey also found support for the idea of putting GP surgeries – with extended opening hours – next to hospitals. This was backed by 39 per cent of the sample.

But Mr Swinyard said even a price-tag as low as £10 could see people who were in serious need of the casualty unit searching elsewhere for treatment.

“If people have to pay for A&E but they don’t need to pay for their GPs then people are going to vote with their feet and not use the service,” said Mr Swinyard.

“Whenever you try to bring in a new charge, all of the hurdles and actual cost of implementing it will far outweigh any good results.

“We don’t want to be in the position where someone has had an accident and a receptionist has to ask for their credit card details before they will admit them – that would be horrifying.”

He said the average cost of treating someone in a casualty unit was around £120 compared to the £6 to £10 cost at a GP surgery.

He said: “We should spend money educating people to make sure they go to the right services.”

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the BMA’s GP committee, said: “We will not solve the problem by penalising less well-off patients by erecting financial barriers within the health service.

“It could be counterproductive as patients who are deterred from seeking medical attention at A&E, may end up becoming more ill, requiring greater hospital care later on. Patients could also inappropriately seek treatment at their GP practice, even if they need hospital care.”