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GP contract may ban charging for domestic abuse reports

The Government is looking to ban GPs from charging patients for domestic abuse letters, the health and social care minister has said.

Health minister Lord O’Shaughnessy told the House of Lords last month that the ‘Government are committed to dealing with this issue’.

And he said it would be considered as part of the GP contract negotiations for 2019/20.

At present, the GMS contract does not fund practices for issuing such letters, meaning that unless GPs charge for the related work they are providing the service pro bono.

The Lords debate on 15 November heard that victims of domestic abuse often need to provide evidence when applying for legal aid and that in some cases GPs charge over £150 for such a letter. 

Lord O’Shaughnessy told the House of Lords: ‘I feel uncomfortable with the idea of these letters being charged for. They have been identified by the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government as barriers to accessing support for victims of domestic violence.

‘That cannot be right and we are seeking to end that situation.’

The issue of GPs charging for the letters was previously raised by Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson in September 2016.

He launched a petition to stop the practice – after hearing about it on a visit to a women’s refuge – which claimed charging was ‘immoral’ and ‘has to stop’.

Meanwhile, in February 2017, 16 police and crime commissioners wrote to the then-health secretary Jeremy Hunt asking for him to ban GPs charging for the letters.

The BMA’s GP Committee said it could not comment on ongoing contract negotiations.