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Independents' Day

PM to end 'injustice' of GPs charging ill patients for protection from debt agencies

Prime Minister Theresa May has announced a formal review into the money that GP practices charge for confirming mental health issues in patients who require help with their financial difficulties.

Mrs May said that she will work with the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute 'with a view to ending the practice’ of GPs charging patients directly if they require information to prove to debt collection agencies they are ill and require additional help.

However, it is not clear whether the review will look at abolishing the charges completely or debt collection agencies paying any charges themselves. 

The creditor industry and advice providers like Citizens Advice have agreed a single form – called the Debt and Mental Health Evidence Form – which people can ask their doctor or another mental health professional to fill out.

But campaign spearheaded by the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute - a group set up by founder Martin Lewis - claimed that some GPs were charging up to £150 to sign these forms.

Mrs May said today: 'We will right the everyday injustices that those with mental illness encounter, starting by examining GP forms relating to mental illness and debt. Because those whose illness has resulted in debt or means they are struggling to pay their debt have to prove their mental ill health to debt collectors and pay their GP to fill in a form to do so.

'Such a process can worsen both mental illness and financial difficulties so we’ll work with the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute to consult on these forms with a view to ending the practice.'

But GP leaders pointed out that this is not part of GPs' contractual obligations, and GPs need to be properly resourced to carry out such duties.

Dr Andrew Green, GPC's prescribing lead, said: 'We would support the a review of these forms if it results in removing the need for GPs to be involved completely.

'Given the pressures that we are under, GPs should only be asked for information if there is no other way of that being provided, otherwise our ability to care for those needing medical care is compromised.

'It is quite appropriate for GPs to charge a reasonable professional fee for tasks that are not connected with health, but it should be the organisation requesting the information that is responsible for the costs involved, not the patient. Many bodies seek to reduce their own costs by regarding GPs as a free resource, this is unacceptable and needs to stop.'

The Prime Minister today announced a number of measures to support mental health patients, including steps to ensure children with mental health conditions are cared for in their area and not moved around the country, as well as an investment in digital mental health therapy.

Other reforms announced by the PM today include:

  • Eliminating ‘inappropriate placements to inpatient beds for children and young people by 2021’, to ensure they are cared for in their own area
  • A £67.7m investment in digital health services, which would allow ‘people to check their symptoms, be triaged online and receive clinically-assisted therapy over the internet much more quickly and easily, assuming it’s clinically appropriate’
  • £15m for community-based care such as community clinics and crisis cafes.
  • Support for teachers and school staff to have mental health first aid training, and review of children and young people mental health services led by the CQC and Ofsted
  • A partnership with employers to improve mental health in the workplace

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, RCGP chair, said: 'It’s encouraging to see mental health, particularly that of our children and young patients, being taken seriously by the Prime Minister. A lot needs to be done, and urgently, to make these aspirations a reality and make genuine progress towards parity of esteem between mental and physical health.

'Whilst initiatives like "crisis cafes" and community clinics, which allow patients to self refer, are certainly an encouraging step in the right direction to achieving this, the essential role of general practice must also be recognised in these plans. GPs and our teams are often the first port of call for patients with mental health problems, and it is vital we have access to the appropriate resources and services in the community.'


Readers' comments (30)

  • And once again, more "attacks on GPs" will start-once Whitehall Civil servants have finished making "secret" phone-calls to the "Daily Nutter" instructing them to attack GPs as greedy monsters.
    What the "Daily Nutter" will omit-is explaining that if we spend all day doing medical reports then who will be seeing the patients??
    Somehow-all of society's problems and political issues come back to one group-GPs-evil monsters who must be purged, the devil in disguise.
    The "Daily Nutter" has contributed to putting the public "at risk"-years of harassing GPs has "endangered" the General Public by decimating GP numbers so much.

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  • This is merely a Theoretical discussion between a fictitious Health secretary in the year 3000 and a fictitious newspaper-bearing no link to reality...blah, blah...or anybody real.

    SOS to the "Daily Nutter"...
    "We urgently need a fall guy, someone to take the flak and make me look good again-rather than a dangerous fool"

    Daily Nutter to SOS
    "Don't worry, we are on it...The keyboard is hot with rants about GPs. Don't worry we will hood-wink the public over GPs and save your skin.
    How about a pic of a fat lazy actor driving a Bentley to the Golf Course? and say he is a GP !!

    SOS to Daily Nutter..
    "Thanks. Perfect"

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  • no access to CAMS or CLD, waits for 9 months to see a secondary care, weeks to see crisis team. Lets pay for some diagnostic apps - that will make everything better!

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  • Peter Swinyard

    We have had enough years of the Citizens Advice bureaux writing to us for medical information and saying that they are a charity and cannot identify the funds to pay our fees for a response. Regrettably, I am not a charity and cannot identify the time to respond to these requests. If Mrs May wants to make this part of the terms of service, she should incorporate it in the GP contract negotiations.

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  • Peter, she won't....
    However what will happen is pages of **** written by "The Daily Nutter" about us GPs AGAIN...
    They will find one GP on £250,000 per year-(who happens to have inherited a retail chain) and the generalise to "all GPs".

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  • PM should sove the problem of hudge interest charges for short loans like payday loan...some of them are around 3000%!!!
    This is unique in Europe, even criminal...and of course poor vulnerable people most of the time! Myself would never charge for such a certificate...

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  • A lot of GPS will waive fees for private letters/forms depending on circumstances, and sometimes we don't which can make one feel quite uncomfortable. It is all a mess - I would welcome a review of this, what I don't welcome is the way this is possibly intended to discredit GPs.

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  • You can't avoid the market. If you legislate to make GPs do work for free such as writing reports for all and sundry, policing shotguns etc, you will see the outcome as fewer and fewer appointments actually doing what GPs are best at - seeing patients!

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  • Doctors are here to cure patients. Now we are prescribing "food", doing letters, helping give parents excuses for their children's behaviour, Some doctors are not seeing any patients at all. Just reviewing policies and pathways to help an inadequately funded health service that is one of the lowest funding in the developing world but expects great results.

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  • I have just seen an old lady with dementia whos heating is broke. No doubt she will have the injustice of paying someone to fix it. Grow up - that"s how the world works.

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