GPs want to get tough on time-wasters

Article date: 29 April 2003

GPs want to charge patients for their services, according to areport out today.

Doctors say they want to improve the way their practice is runby discouraging time-wasters. Almost three in five would like tocharge an average fee of £36 for GP home visits, and 58 per cent ofGPs want to impose an average £11 fine on those patients who failto turn up for an appointment without prior warning.

The findings are part of Norwich Union Healthcare’s first‘Health of the Nation Index’ looking at GPs’views of the health service. The index also reveals that doctorsthink the NHS isn’t geared up for modern-day conditions, suchas food allergies or Fibromyalgia, which are presenting inincreasing numbers of their practices.

And say GPs, while their local NHS Trust is good, and improvingin some areas, particularly for cancer patients, the overallservice is poor, and getting worse for illnesses affecting theelderly – such as osteoporosis, dementia and hip or kneereplacements. It’s also worsening for those battlingalcoholism and drug addiction, or suffering mild or moderatedepression.

One of the GPs who undertook the Norwich Union Healthcaresurvey, Dr Ann Robinson, says it’s these kind of conditionsthat are increasingly being presented in doctors’surgeries.

Says Dr Robinson: “The NHS needs to get up to speed ifit’s going to be able to cope with health issues in the 21stcentury. With our ageing population it’s alarming that GPsthink the elderly are getting a poor and worsening service.

“It’s also worrying that GPs don’t feel theycan make appropriate referrals for issues we’re seeing moreof, such as allergies, stress related illnesses, mild depressionand chronic fatigue syndrome. Many of us feel out of our depth whenpresented with problems like autism, dyspraxia and attentiondeficit disorder which seem to be increasing problems which causeparents a great deal of anxiety.”

Norwich Union Healthcare’s ‘Health of the NationIndex’ is the first of what’s set to be a comprehensivebi-annual study of GPs’ views of the Health Service, theirown practices, trends they’re seeing in the UK’s healthand patients’ attitudes towards their own health. And it alsoreveals:

  • Three quarters of GPs questioned say they find it hardest tomake appropriate referrals for 21st century conditions such asChronic Fatigue Syndrome. A further 72 per cent cite lack ofappropriate consultants for food allergies, and 59 per cent saythey find it difficult to refer Fibromyalgia on to an appropriatespecialist.
  • The top three conditions they’ve seen increases in overthe past three years are erectile dysfunction (74 per cent of GPsreport an increase, due largely to the Viagra effect), obesity (69per cent) and stress (65 per cent of those questioned) –although two in five GPs say they don’t believe the NHSshould be paying for the treatment of workplace stress.
  • Waiting times for outpatient appointments have worsened forneurologists according to 60 per cent of GPs, followed bycounselling services (at 56 per cent). In Wales and Scotland GPsare worried by rising waiting times for orthopaedicoperations.
  • Over four in 10 GPs say they’ve seen an increase inchildren presenting with learning difficulties, not a traditionalGP remit
  • And the vast majority (over 75 per cent) say the use ofprescription pharmaceuticals in the treatment of mental healthproblems in children under 10, is appropriate and effective onlyin a limited number of cases.

When it comes to their patients, doctors think they should bedoing more to educate themselves about their condition – andseven in 10 GPs say this can actually improve the quality ofdecisions made about their healthcare.

Tim Baker, Director of Business Development at Norwich UnionHealthcare, said: “GPs are often at the forefront ofwhat’s happening in the healthcare industry and our researchreveals that GPs certainly want the best for their patients andwant to get them more involved in decisions regarding theirhealth.”

Adds Dr Robinson: “The study supports what I’mseeing in my own surgery. Some people do research their own medicalconditions and are able to teach me a great deal. But there aremany others who still believe that the doctor knows best and rarelyquestion the diagnosis, treatment or referral that we offer.However those who do self-diagnose, who take control of theirhealth, are often the ones who get better healthcare. We should beencouraging people to question their medical care – it mightbe better for them.”

Roger Taylor, research director at Dr Foster, said: “It isencouraging to see that GPs are seeing improvements in services inmany key areas. But they have also identified where there areproblems. It is good to know that GPs welcome greater involvementin decisions by patients and believe that informed patients resultin better healthcare”.


Media contact:

Jo Misson or Matthew Buchanan at QBO Bell Pottinger on 020 78612424 or Lorna Wiltshire at Norwich Union on 07788 471849

Notes to editors:

  • Norwich Union Healthcare recruited a panel of 150 GPs inJanuary 2003 to take part in a comprehensive online survey carriedout by health research experts at Dr Foster.
  • Norwich Union Healthcare was founded in 1990 as the healthcarearm of Norwich Union and now provides a range of income protectionand private medical insurance products to around 750,000customers. It is one of the largest providers of income protectionand private medical insurance in the UK.
  • Norwich Union Healthcare is a member if the General InsuranceStandards Council and the Association of British Insurers.
  • Norwich Union’s news releases are available on the Avivaplc website at
  • A selection of images is available from the Norwich UnionNewscast site at
  • An ISDN facility is available for studio quality broadcast.Call the press office on 08703 66 68 68

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