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.