Tory leadership hopeful Rishi Sunak plans to introduce a £10 fine for patients who miss GP or hospital appointments if he becomes the next Prime Minister.
In an interview with the Telegraph, Mr Sunak said he would charge patients who failed to attend their appointment, without giving enough notice to the surgery to rebook it.
Patients will be given the ‘benefit of the doubt’ for their first missed consultation, but after that will incur a £10 charge each time.
His backer, Tory MP Greg Hands, said that it will be up to GPs to make the judgement as to whether to fine a patient.
The system would be ‘temporary’, while the NHS attempts to clear the elective backlog of more than six million patients.
He said: ‘We’re already paying for appointments. If they’re not being used, then that’s a waste. So if we can change that, then we basically get more out of the money that we’re putting in today. It’s a good example of a Conservative approach to that problem.’
Mr Sunak confirmed his plan on Twitter yesterday.
Mr Hands said on Talk TV yesterday: ‘Most people would think this is a reasonable thing to do to have a fine, not for a first time offence of somebody missing an appointment, but a second time. It’ll be at the discretion of the GP, so the GP we hope will be able to make that judgement as to whether the person has missed the appointment due to extraneous reasons, or they are a vulnerable person.’
Responding to the news, BMA council chair Dr Philip Banfield said it was ‘terribly disappointing’ that Mr Sunak ‘seem[s] to have so little understanding of the reality facing our NHS, or what it will take to turnaround the impact of the Government’s repeated mistakes and the now mammoth backlog of care’.
He said Mr Sunak’s plan would ‘likely make matters worse’.
‘Charging patients for missed appointments would not only undermine the essential trust between doctor and patient, but ultimately threaten the fundamental principle that the NHS delivers free care at the point of need, for all,’ he said.
‘The BMA has always stood firmly against the idea of charging patients for missed appointments.’
Dr Banfield added: ‘While it is frustrating when patients do not attend, the reasons why this happens should be investigated rather than simply resorting to punishing them. Financially penalising patients inevitably impacts the poorest and most vulnerable in the community.
‘This may discourage them from rebooking, exacerbating already worsening health inequalities and costing the NHS more.’
Dr Layla McCay, director of policy at the NHS Confederation, said: ‘The administrative burden this would place on the NHS risks being considerable and could well far outweigh the money brought in by the fines.’
According to NHS Digital, more than 15 million GP appointments go to waste annually when patients do not turn up.
Back in 2017, a Pulse survey revealed that just over half of GPs think patients should be fined if they don’t turn up to appointments.
And in 2015, a major pre-election poll of 20,000 British adults found that around eight in ten people believe the Government should consider charging patients for missed GP appointments as a policy.
The winning candidate to replace caretaker Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be announced on 5 September.