Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Tories in new row on NHS 'charges'

The Press Association - 28 August 2009

The Tories are engaged in another internal row over the NHS after one of the party's MEPs called for working people to be charged 10 to see their GP.

Charles Tannock, the party's European Parliament spokesman on foreign affairs, said he would like to see such payments - and fines for non-attendance - to help fund the health service.

But shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley ruled out the idea and said he believed it would end up costing the NHS more money to operate than it would receive in fees and fines.

The latest disagreement came after another MEP, Daniel Hannan, embarrassed the party by telling American television the NHS as a whole had been a "60-year mistake" and that he "wouldn't wish it on anyone".

Dr Tannock, a consultant psychiatrist before being elected as an MEP, told Channel 4 News: "I would be totally in favour of small co-payments, small payments being made if you turn up to things and perhaps small fines being levied if you do not.

"I know they are controversial but I don't think people who are in a job would be against say spending 10 to see their GP or being fined 10 if they don't show up to an out-patients, so that's the sort of thing I would like to see."

He also suggested doctors should face a pay freeze.

"Right now the doctors in the NHS are the most highly paid doctors in the public health services in the whole of Europe, possibly the world, so maybe we may have to have a freeze on doctors' pay in the future."

Mr Lansley though, said while payments were widely accepted for dentistry, the "great majority" of NHS health care should be "based on our need not our ability to pay".

"Charles may say 'oh well 10 to see a GP' - well that would not make any difference to hospital care and frankly, if you tried to put in such a system, by the time you have done all the bureaucracy of raising the money and levying some fines, you would not be raising any money for the NHS anyway."
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