New prime minister Rishi Sunak has reportedly backtracked on his pledge to fine people £10 for missed GP appointments. Mr. Sunak first floated the policy during his failed Conservative party leadership race against Liz Truss, and said he ‘stood by the sentiment’ when asked if he would be pressing ahead with the plan on Wednesday.
Under the scheme, patients would not be fined for missing their first NHS appointment but any missed NHS consultations after that would result in a £10 fine. There are 15 million missed GP appointments in England every year, according to NHS England.
But this morning (October 28) the Number 10 spokesperson told Sky News that “now is not the time” to take the policy forward after “listening to GPs and NHS leaders”. The British Medical Association (BMA), which is the trade union for doctors, already condemned the policy when it first put forward by Mr. Sunak earlier this year.
It said that “financially penalising patients inevitably impacts the poorest” and that the fine could “discourage” sick people from rebooking any appointments they miss. Chairman of the BMA, Philip Banfield, said the plan would “ultimately threaten the fundamental principle that the NHS delivers free care at the point of need for all”.
He added: “The BMA has always stood firmly against the idea of charging patients for missed appointments. While it is frustrating when patients do not attend, the reasons why this happens should be investigated rather than simply resorting to punishing them.”
“Financially penalising patients inevitably impacts the poorest and most vulnerable in the community. This may discourage them from rebooking, exacerbating already worsening health inequalities and costing the NHS more.”