Monday, September 25, 2006

Grudging compliance

For most of this year, the government has been fighting with GPs over its plans to subsidise doctor's visits for 45-64 year olds. The aim of the government subsidy was to reduce prices to patients and make primary healthcare more accessible, but GPs were adamant that they would charge whatever they wanted (in other words, they wanted to pocket the subsidy and use it to pay for another round of golf, rather than pass it on to patients). An agreement was finally reached in June which saw the doctors allowed to set their own charges - but also required them to publish them on the web so that patients could see whether the subsidy was being passed on.

According to a story by Kamala Hayman in this morning's Press, the GPs compliance with this can be described as grudging at best. Four of five PHOs have posted their GPs fees - but buried in the back corners of websites and in ways seemingly designed to make it difficult to compare fees between practices. So they've compiled the information themselves (their file is currently broken, but I've saved a proper version here). The good news is that most do seem to be passing on the subsidy, as they are contractually obliged to do. But shouldn't hey also be keeping their agreement, and publicising the fact, rather than engendering suspicion by trying to hide behind secrecy?