Most people in the UK want England to abolish prescription charges and say they do not mind which general practitioner they see, provided they get a convenient appointment, while around half believe that in 10 years time they will have to pay towards some National Health Service services they need as a patient, according to a slew of opinion poll findings published in the last few days.

The prescription charge poll, conducted by the BBC, found that three-quarters of people believe England should follow Wales, which has already abolished prescription charges, and Scotland, which plans to do so by 2011, even though the Department of Health maintains that the funds raised for the NHS by the charge, which totalled £430 million in 2006-7, cannot be given up. Northern Ireland is currently considering options for the charge’s future.

Many charities are calling for England to abolish the charge, with Citizens Advice describing it as “a barrier to health,” even through the Department points out that 88% of prescription items are dispensed free of charge in England.

Meantime, while 69% of people in the UK say they would prefer to see the same GP every time they visit the surgery, 65% would not mind who they saw provided they could get a convenient appointment, and 67% would be happy to see any doctor if they could easily access the medical records, according to a new poll conducted by consumer group Which?

Just 52% of patients who had visited a GP in the last year had seen the same doctor for their last three visits, while of those who preferred to see the same doctor 56% added that they would not mind seeing another GP for convenience, the study found. Older people are more likely to want to see the same doctor, while younger patients and full-time workers attach more value to convenience, it added. Which? notes that the study was carried out in order to add a patient voice to the current debate around the value of polyclinics.

"Our research highlights that while seeing the same doctor is important, when people simply don't have time to plan ahead or take any time off work, other considerations such as getting an appointment quickly and at a convenient time become more important,” said Miranda Watson, campaign manager at Which? “The government needs to ensure that any new provisions reflect the needs and varying priorities of patients depending on their age, area and circumstance,” she added.

Finally, another new poll, conducted by the British Medical Association, has found that half of all people interviewed believe that, in 10 years time, they will have to pay towards some NHS services they need as a patient. However, 93% also agreed, or strongly agreed, that the NHS should continue to be funded from UK taxes and remain free at the point of use.

The findings, which were published on the eve of the BMA’s annual conference in Edinburgh, shows that people are “clearly worried about the future funding of the health service and the government’s direction of travel on health policy,” said BMA chairman Hamish Meldrum.

“The public may also fear that with rising drug and treatment costs, advances in medical technology and increasing demand for services, the NHS will no longer be able to afford a completely comprehensive health service,” he added.

The BMA has long argued for the need for a fully-informed public, professional and political debate about what the NHS can provide, said Dr Meldrum, and he called on the government to initiate this “long overdue” debate and also take steps to "reassure the public that it intends to maintain a tax-funded NHS, not just for the next 10 years, but for the foreseeable future.”