But, despite widespread abuse of the system, Somerset doctors oppose introducing charges for A&E visitors.
A Doctors.net.uk poll of 800 GPs suggested one in three supported charging £5 or £10 for some visits to deter unnecessary attendances.
A Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group spokesman, who claimed 20% of A&E visits were unnecessary, said the organisation was opposed to charging.
He said: “It’s a fundamental principle of the NHS that services are ‘free at the point of access’.
“The survey of GPs indicated ‘one-third’ (of a sample of 800 out of a possible 40,000 GPs in England) believed a £10 charge would deter people from attending A&E departments with only minor ailments or injury.
“Such a charge is very likely to be a deterrent but this might risk the poorest and most disadvantaged delaying seeking treatment when they have a serious illness or injury.”
The spokesman said patients unable to wait for a GP appointment should call 111 for advice as A&E is for people with “the most serious injury or illness”.
Dr Harry Yoxall, secretary of the Somerset Local Medical Committee, said: “It’s frustrating when people go to A&E inappropriately but the majority of GPs don’t think it’s a good move to charge patients going to A&E because you don’t want to stop people who are seriously ill or have had an accident getting the care they need.
“The principle of the NHS is that it’s publically-funded and free at the point of delivery.”
He said: “There are always concerns that some people are using A&E when they don’t have a genuine emergency in order to get fast-track treatment.
“Even so, I’d be nervous about introducing this idea – the real danger would be putting off people who need urgent attention and that would clearly be unacceptable.”
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.”
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