GP practices in Cornwall are reporting ‘increasing requests’ to produce supporting letters for emotional support pets, according to the local LMC.
Kernow LMC said that practices in the area are receiving requests from tenants in properties managed or owned by Cornwall Council for supporting letters to allow them to have a pet.
The LMC advised practices to charge for the letters in line with each practice’s own fees and strongly recommended to only produce the letters after receiving payment.
In an update to practices, the LMC said: ‘The LMC’s view is that if a GP team were minded to provide a letter then it would be on the basis that the request for this letter is received direct from Cornwall Council, rather than from the patient, so the GP is clear what is being sought by way of information.
‘That work ought to attract a charge to be met by the patient in line with the GP practice’s current fees – and the LMC’s strong recommendation is that the work ought not to be undertaken until a payment has been received. It is not a core GMS service, of course.’
The LMC also said that the patient requesting the letter can be redirected to another professional such as a social worker or a psychiatrist, should the practice be unable to produce the letter.
It added: ‘If your GP practice does receive a request direct from the council which you can share with us, then we are happy to write back to advise them of our position on behalf of general practice.’
Cornwall Council policy said that some properties ‘have been identified as being inappropriate for pets and are advertised accordingly’ and that this is also clarified with applicants ahead of the tenancy sign up.
The policy added: ‘Please note that a GP letter or similar representation by a medical professional is not acceptable evidence of an assistance animal for a medical condition.
‘We recognise that many tenants moving into “older persons housing schemes” might already have a pet and that they are an important companion for many older people, so in this instance, will adopt the following:
‘That persons moving into a property with a pet restriction will only be allowed to keep their existing pet at the discretion of the Housing Officer. In such cases they will not be able to replace that pet in the future.’
The Medical Protection Society (MPS) warned that such requests from patients are high in summer, when activities such as skydives, marathons and swimming challenges are more popular.