Peter Dutton will meet Clive Palmer and try to persuade the PUP leader to support the $7 GP co-payment.

Health Minister Peter Dutton says he’s still hopeful of persuading Senate crossbenchers to back his contentious GP co-payment, ahead of a dinner with Clive Palmer.

Mr Dutton will meet the billionaire MP on Thursday night to discuss the Palmer United Party’s concerns about the $7 charge to visit the doctor.

The government has so far struggled to sell the co-payment to the crossbenchers, but the health minister on Wednesday described negotiations as “fruitful”.

“I think we can be hopeful but there is a lot of work to do and these are long-running negotiations,” he told ABC radio.

“I’m going to break bread with Mr Palmer tonight and I think like all of us Mr Palmer wants to see a Medicare system which is sustainable.”

The crucial meeting with the PUP leader comes as Department of Health figures revealed pensioners and other concession card holders may not benefit from the proposed 10 visit-cap on GP co-payments.

The health department statistics reveal the average number of visits for GP, imaging and pathology services by concession card holders was eight, falling short of the safety net, The Australian reports.

But Mr Dutton said the government could no longer provide GP services for free.

“That would be the cheap and easy option, but that’s not the option that we’re taking,” he said.

The Australian Medical Association has called for pensioners and other vulnerable patients to be exempted from the co-payment, as it negotiates an alternative model with the government.