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Police chiefs urge Jeremy Hunt to ban GP fees for domestic abuse reports

Police and crime commissioners have called on the health secretary to stop charging domestic abuse victims for a medical letter from their GP that is needed to access legal aid.

The letter, which was signed by 16 police and crime commissioners, said the practice of charging victims for a document that proves they were abused is ‘callous, insensitive and unjust’. 

Recent legislation changes mean domestic abuse victims now have to apply for legal aid but to qualify, they must provide evidence to prove that they have been abused. One accepted form of evidence is a GP letter.

While not all GPs are requesting a fee for the letter, some are charging up to £175, they say.

The letter to Jeremy Hunt says: ‘Of course not all GPs are charging such fees, but if we are to ensure that victims receive a consistent, equitable, and fair service across the UK, this service needs to be provided by the NHS, and the fees abolished.

‘GPs are under a terrible strain at the moment, and complex organisational structures and commissioning processes make resolutions to issues such as this difficult. But no matter what the difficulties are, it’s clear that some victims are receiving a service that falls well short of what’s expected.’ 

The concerns were first raised by deputy Labour leader Tom Watson’s ‘scrap the fee’ campaign following a visit to a Wythenshawe Safe Spots, a support centre for victims and survivors of domestic abuse.

Mr Watson said he was ‘delighted’ that the campaign was backed by the police and crime commissioners and added that he has requested an urgent meeting with ministers to end the practice.

But Dr Peter Holden, chair of the BMA's professional fees committee, said supplying such letters 'is not an NHS service'.

He said: 'What would a solicitor be charging for a report. It's not an NHS service and people need to understand that whatever a GP charges is not what goes into his back pocket.

'There are often other routes that this information can be gained. For example, they may have gone to accident and emergency, they may have been to social services, so all the GP is doing is retailing what he has on his records and that's not a good use of GP time when the information the GP holds will be second hand anyway.'

He added that GPs are not able to offer medical opinion on domestic abuse cases, 'which is of course what the police are chasing, and GPs do not supply opinions. They're not forensically trained.'

Readers' comments (9)

  • THE LEGISLATION IS THE PROBLEM-WHY DOES IT DEMAND THE VICTIM PROVIDE EVIDENCE?

    "EVIDENCE OF PROOF"-SURELY THIS IS A POLICE MATTER AND THE POLICE HOLD THE "PROOF" DON'T THEY?

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  • Disappearing Doc

    Rather than the 'scrap the fee' campaign why not call it the 'GPs should work for free' campaign ..or the 'government should actually pay someone to write these letters and not dump this work on people who are already too busy looking after ill people' campaign or perhaps the 'anyone should be able to get anything they like for free from GPs even if no one is paying them to do it' campaign ..hasn't got the same self righteous ring to it though hey.

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  • Breaking news: Jeremy Hunt doesn't believe victims of domestic violence until they have told their GP who then gives them a note to say they are victims of domestic violence.

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  • The problem is not the fee, it is that the letter is required at all. No letter, no fee. Demanding GPs provide letters for all and sundry is unreasonable and only adds to the workload with no useful purpose being served.

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  • I'm sick of these moral black mails.

    Perhaps if we weren't doing free reports for gun license we might have had time? Has the police commissioners thought about that?

    Or may be, in a civilized society, everyone (including GPs) are entitled to just reward for work? These people seems to think slavery is back in fashion and enforceable as long as it's for good cause.

    Tell you what Police commissioners - why don't you ask all your officers to work for free when they attend domestic abuse case and the time they used will have to be subtracted from their pay. Let's see how you own work force will react to that. And then I'll think about doing my report for free.

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  • Knowledge is Porridge

    What if women have been told they can pay for their divorce lawyer, or get them for free with a GP letter?
    I would write a supportive letter for free where I have some knowledge to support it. In my experience this is like the usual dilemma of being asked to sign a sick note for someone who is fit to work.

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  • Put it on a sick note,Medical reason domestic abuse to and from.sign+ date job done!!!!

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  • Peter Swinyard

    Doctors Chiefs demand that Ministry of Justice removes need for doctor's note for Legal Aid. - a better headline.
    It is, after all, just a cost saving scheme where the DoJ is trying to reduce the Legal Aid bill.
    OK. But not at our expense, thanks.

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  • needing these letters at all is surely discriminatory against those who have never disclosed domestic abuse to their gp or a+e prior and JH should therefore ban GPs from providing them

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