This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

Read the latest issue online

GPs buried under trusts' workload dump

Deputy Labour leader launches petition to block GP report charge

Deputy Labour Party leader Tom Watson has launched a petition to block GPs from charging domestic abuse victims for medical reports.

Mr Watson said it was 'offensive' and 'ridiculous' that victims may be charged by their GP for a medical report that could support their bid for legal aid.

Mr Watson said he suspected most GPs would 'baulk' at the notion of charging in these circumstances, but said where it does happen it is 'unfair, immoral, and has to stop', despite not being funded under the GP contract.

The GPC said its view is that it is the legal aid process which needs reforming, so that GPs are 'not involved at all'.

In a blog, Mr Watson wrote that 'domestic violence victims suffer enough' and 'GPs should not be able to charge them to access justice'.

He said: 'Let me be clear. I know that the vast majority of GPs would baulk at the idea of charging for that letter. They are kind, compassionate and caring people who chose medicine as a profession because they want to help.

'But we don’t know how many do charge because the Government doesn’t hold that information. I think they need to find out fast. If this is a loophole, close it. If this is an unintended consequence of poorly drafted legislation, change it.

'No GP should charge victims of domestic abuse for a letter they need to access legal aid. It’s unfair. It’s immoral. And it has to stop.'

GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey told Pulse: ‘The BMA does not believe GPs should be involved in this process at all which is fundamentally unfair and distressing for the patient.’

‘The concerns raised by the victim should be enough for legal aid to be supplied and we should not be putting in place barriers that prevent anyone from accessing this important support.’

‘The best way to achieve what both we and Tom Watson want, which is proper support to women who are victims of domestic abuse, is for Legal Aid to drop the unnecessary requests for a GP letter altogether and instead trust the women involved.

The petition on Mr Watson’s personal site has attracted almost 1,200 signatures so far.

Readers' comments (18)

  • "He said: 'Let me be clear. I know that the vast majority of GPs would baulk at the idea of charging for that letter. They are kind, compassionate and caring people who chose medicine as a profession because they want to help." So GP don't have families and children and don't have material needs. They survive on patient's love and this fresh English air.
    But Solicitors can charge them because they are not compassionate .
    What a utter rubbish. Why do they need GP report in first place?
    Everybody wants to see/use GP for free.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • another nonsense from a relic of the era of new labor.
    so why stop with free medical reports? ask lawyers if they have compassion to undertake their legal duties for free.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • How about legal aid reimburses GPs, after all the solicitors and barristers dont work for free.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Labours have lost another dedicated voter just now.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Surely politicians should be "kind, compassionate and caring people who chose.....a profession because they want to help" - does Mr Watson not expect to be paid and does he claim expenses? Then there are lawyers - presumably they would like to help too and not accept payment.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • tom watson

    is a die hard blairite and all round ****

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • He's entitled to his opinion .
    Thank god he will never be in government.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • For free ,non contractual means they will go in the pending tray never to be looked at again.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I'm going to sound a complete hypocrite here (and I can't believe that I'm going to in any way defend this odious man), but the obvious point to make in rebuttal of the comments above is that solicitors are not given contracts/salaries by the state. They work on an item of service basis (which could perhaps be a better model for GP). Mr Watson would no doubt suggest that we are required to do some Govt admin for free (sick lines and the like) and this would fall into the same bracket.

    That said, my own personal view is that we should be allowed to charge for these in common with any other medicolegal report we do.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Perhaps we should set up a counter-petition to support GPs being properly remunerated for legal work which comes at the expense of medical needs?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • How about blocking legal fees charged by lawyers too?
    A penny unwise and pound foolish man. Let us all not work and go on benefits. I can live with that.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • My standard line to anyone asking me how can I justify charging for a report is it say that I pay for my medical indemnity. Should anyone want to challenge my report I would look to my insurance.
    Would they like to assist me in paying for my insurance?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Before getting into this argument,may I suggest that, like Dr Vautrey, I believe this is nothing to do with us.
    Marriage is a legal status enshrined in law,the state confers and removes it.
    The level of domestic abuse reflects a failure by previous govenments including labour
    A lack of teaching on the school curriculum
    A lack of pre marital counselling
    A lack of specific inclusion of statements with regard to this, in the marriage ceremony
    A lack of requiring ladies to specifically sign statements, they have made enquiries, considered the issue, and satisfied themselves that this has not been a previous issue, with the man they are marrying
    A failure to ask the lady to sign that she has checked for previous criminal convictions
    People check their credit score online but not the forensic history of their future spouse
    This is a failure of legislators

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Firstly I should not be asked to provide a report. If I am asked to provide a report I will be happy to not charge for this on compassionate grounds only if every one else involved in the process does the same. So no GP fees, no lawyers fees and above all no politician claiming allowances for doing the public job and the compassion has to run across every action of the society to be fair to all.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Firstly domestic abuse has nothing to do with marriage. You can suffer domestic abuse without being married. And who determines where the line is drawn? What if a patient suffered a sexual assault or violence by a stranger? Why is their suffering any less valid than someone who suffers at the hands of a partner. I see it as very dangerous to put a moral decision on a charging policy around who's suffering is more deserving of no-fee services. particularly as this is not part of the NHS services.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • All reports can have some sort of compassionate element. " can't believe a gp wants to charge for a letter to my local gym. I am trying to get healthy and he is obstructing me in this" . Same for housing letters, benefit letters, wheelie bin letters ...

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Tom Watson does not reflect the views of the Labour Party. He's a Blairite

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Tom Robinson | GP Partner29 Sep 2016 11:08am

    I'm genuinely struggling to decide if your post was written in satire, or if you are serious? Surely you are not genuinely suggesting all those things?

    Dmoestic abuse is a failure of humankind and society, not of Government.

    On reading your post again and again, it just gets sillier and sillier. Please say you were joking.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say