The controversial debate took place at the Local Medical Committee's annual general conference in York, England on Thursday afternoon.On average in NI, GPs see each patient six times a year which amounts to 20 prescriptions per patient a year.GP consultations have doubled since 1995, and they say pressure on them is at an all time high.The British Medical Association (BMA) believes introducing charges is not the solution to the financial crisis facing the NHS.The workload at GP surgeries may be unsustainable - but the BMA thinks that making patients pay is not the answer.Six out of ten GPs recently told a BMA survey they were considering retiring from general practice.Dr Mark PorterOn Thursday, GPs voted on whether patient fees would ease the financial woes of the NHS and the result was a rejection of plans to introduce charges.Dr Mark Porter, Chair BMA UK Council, said: "Many GPs are frustrated and concerned about the future of general practice given that many GP practices are struggling from a combination of rising patient demand, falling funding and more work being moved from hospitals into the community."In this climate, it is understandable that the Local Medical Committee (LMC) Conference wanted to debate the need for extra funding for overstretched GP services."Despite these unprecedented funding pressures GPs have today sent a resounding message that charging patients is not the solution to the financial crisis facing the NHS," he added."The BMA is committed to a health service that is free at the point of need and accessible to all."But we should be under no illusion - the funding shortfall in general practice is simply not sustainable. Without investment in more GPs and practice staff and a commitment from politicians to making premises fit for purpose the future of general practice and the quality of patient care will be under threat."