Cabinet Minister Claims “There’s A Reason” The Government Hasn’t Introduced Fines For Missed GP Appointments
Work and pensions secretary Thérèse Coffey, who is leading Liz Truss’ leadership bid, has suggested doctors do not support Rishi Sunak’s calls to introduce fines for missed GP appointments.
The cabinet minister told LBC that the idea of applying a £10 penalty for every missed appointment in the NHS had been “rolling around for a long time” and that “there’s a reason” the idea has never been implemented.
Former chancellor and leadership contender Rishi Sunak told The Sunday Telegraph that he would like to introduce such fines as part of a "transformative" shake-up of the NHS he would like to oversee if he became prime minister.
He added that it was “not right" that patients were failing to turn up for consultations, scans and check-ups, and were "taking those slots away” from others.
More than 15 million GP appointments are wasted on average every year after patients fail to attend, according to NHS England, costing the NHS over £216 million.
Under Sunak’s proposal, patients missing appointments would be given "the benefit of the doubt" after the first incident, but would be charged £10 for each subsequent missed appointment.
He suggested that the fines would be a “temporary” measure to help tackle the NHS backlog built up during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Responding to his proposals on Monday morning, however, Coffey said: “This idea has been rolling around for a long time and I think there's a reason why it hasn't been brought into place in the past.
“I think putting the onus on doctors to fine their patients — I'm not sure many doctors would want to do that. Quite candidly, it's important that we treat people.”
Concerns over the proposal have also been raised by medical associations, with some suggesting that it could incur excess administrative burdens on the NHS.
Dr Layla McCay, director of policy at the NHS Confederation said: “It is important to recognise that the reasons patients do not or cannot attend their appointments will be complex.
“Penalising them unfairly will not solve the problem and working with local communities to address the root causes is essential.
She added: “The administrative burden this would place on the NHS risks being considerable and could well far outweigh the money brought in by the fines.
“This proposal will also not solve the fundamental and long-term issues the NHS is currently grappling with.”
Dr Gary Howsam, Vice Chair of the Royal College of GPs, told The Mirror that while it was “frustrating” when appointments were missed, “charging for appointments is not the answer”.
“It would fundamentally change the principle that the NHS is free at the point of need,” he said.
“And [it] would likely impact on our most vulnerable patients most – and it would add another layer of bureaucracy to a GP service already drowning in red tape.”
He added: “Ultimately, the bigger issue affecting patients’ ability to access GP care and services is the workload and workforce pressures family doctors and our teams are working under.”
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