GPs are no longer able to charge patients with a mental health condition who need to prove they are ill to credit check companies, the BMA has announced.
As part of the new five-year GP contract, GPs will provide evidence of a patient’s condition for free, but by using a shortened version of the form.
However, credit check companies should only ask for evidence ‘if absolutely necesary’ said the BMA – and they should first request a prescription, appointment letter or a benefit letter to confirm diagnosis before asking patients to approach GPs.
In 2017, then Prime Minister Theresa May announced a formal review into the practice of charging mental health patients for their debt forms after it was revealed that some GPs might claim up to £150 to sign these.
At the time, GP leaders pointed out that it was not part of GPs’ contractual obligations, but that GPs needed to be properly resourced to carry out such duties.
Following work between the BMA and the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute – a group set up by Moneysavingexpert.com – from the start of this month patients with mental health illness no longer need to pay for their GP to prove their illness.
The BMA argued that the forms, which can cost between £30 and £150, could exacerbate both the debt and the mental health state of these patients, with research showing that around one in three people have been charged for them.
BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘It can be hard for patients with mental health conditions to reach out for financial help, so it’s vital that the process of getting debt support is made as simple as possible and without unnecessary charges.
‘The BMA, MMHPI, NHS England and the Government have had a shared concern about this for some time now, so we’re delighted that the debt and mental evidence form is now shorter, clearer, and comes at no cost to our patients.
‘We want to empower patients by encouraging the use of self-certification and reduce the need for GP practice involvement in these situations, but we hope that, where that’s not possible, this updated form will now make things quicker and easier for those to get the help they need and deserve.’
This week, the RCGP called for longer appointments for GPs to better manage patients with mental health issues, after mental health charity Mind warned patient are not getting enough information about sidfe effects when prescribed antidepressants.