A LANCASHIRE medical boss believes charging patients for some A&E visits would ‘deter vulnerable patients who genuinely need help’.

In a national poll, a third of GPs said patients should have to pay for some visits to the emergency department, in order to reduce unnecessary attendances.

Many emergency rooms have been under severe pressure this winter due to high numbers of patients seeking care, especially at the Royal Blackburn Hospital, which has one of the busiest A&E units in the country.

Most respondents to the survey thought government changes would fail to ease the current pressures, and it was suggested that patients could be charged £5 or £10, with refunds given if the trip was found to be necessary.

But Dr David Wrigley, the Lancashire representative for the British Medical Association, said: "The vast majority of GPs and hospital doctors are committed to an NHS that delivers care on the basis of need and not the ability to pay.

“In this survey, two thirds of GPs state they are against levying patients for using A&E services.

"Introducing charging for NHS services runs the risk of deterring vulnerable patients who genuinely need help from seeking treatment at a time when many people, from all backgrounds, are struggling financially.”

More than 800 GPs from across England answered the survey for Doctors.net.uk, carried out for the Press Association.

Four in 10 said placing a GP surgery - with extended opening hours - right next to every A&E department would help drive down the numbers seeking help and cut spiralling hospital admissions.

A Department of Health spokesman said: "Charging patients who use A&E goes against the founding principles of the NHS and there are no plans to introduce fees.”