Quite obviously medical appointments with a general practitioner are already paid for. It's just that it is via the tax system, the appointment itself being free at the point of use. The British Medical Association - the doctors' trade union - is now insisting that this must change. To a system whereby there is an out of pocket expense to the patient for such a visit.
We think that's a good idea, with the appropriate caps on prices for multiple visits, as we already do with prescription charges for example, and we're quite happy with some to much of the cost still being tax financed. The existence of a price up front does usefully change behaviour however minimal it is.
The above isn't quite what the BMA says but it is clearly what they mean. You know, doctors being bright people and all that, they must have thought this through:
GPs “will go insane” unless strict limits are imposed on the number of patients they say each day, medics claim.
The British Medical Association has called for a cap on the number of patients, with doctors hailing the system in Sweden where GPs see just 13 patients daily.
Medics said they were too often expected to have up to 70 consultations a day – and said this was not safe for them or their patients.
Dr Satash Narang, from Gwent and South Powys division, said GPs would “go insane, quit and become insolvent” if limits were not introduced.
“For the sake of quality and safety of patient care and the sanity of its troops, we urge the BMA to take a fresh approach by defining and agreeing what is a safe workload,” he said.
Previous research has found the average family doctor sees 41 patients each day.
Such limits would mean soaring waiting times to see a GP.
One solution would be that we have four times as many GPs. No one, no one at all, thinks that's going to happen. It's also not what the Swedish solution is. Not at all.
In fact, Sweden has fewer GPs per head of population than the UK. They've thus, clearly and obviously, not lightened this workload through increased supply. Instead, they must have - and it is must have - changed demand. Which they have one through changing the price.
For yes, those little charts at the beginning of every economics book are indeed correct, supply and demand curves do work, price is the intersection. We can change the price and so affect supply and or demand just as it's possible to fiddle the other way around.
A GP appointment in Sweden costs £15 to £20 (200 SEK say). The full cost is about what it is in the UK, £200 or so. We have 100% third party financing through tax, they only 90%. But it's that 10% out of pocket that allows fewer, per population, GPs to have those 13 visits and meet demand instead of our 40 rising to 70 and still not meeting it.
Prices affect demand, d'ye see?
As far as we know there are no complaints about the degradation to the health of the Swedish population this causes.
As at the top, doctors are clever people, they have thought all this through, haven't they?