Rishi Sunak has scrapped one of his Tory leadership campaign promises to fine patients who miss a GP and hospital appointment of £10.
The prime minister today backtracked on the plan, which he outlined in his first attempt to lead the country this year, after it was criticized by health leaders.
Sunak believes Britons “shouldn’t miss their appointments” but admitted that “now is not the right time” for the policy, a Downing Street spokesman said.
The comments come after official figures this week revealed that the number of no-shows among GPs is near record levels. More than £100 million could have been raised this year if each had been fined £10.
The prime minister had previously argued that it was “not right” for some patients not to show up and to “take those places from people who need them.”
But the British Medical Association said the fine would ‘make matters worse’ and threaten the principle of free NHS care when it’s needed.
According to official NHS data, nearly 1.4 million GP appointments were missed in September this year. It is the highest monthly toll since November last year (1.43 million)
Rishi Sunak today backtracked on his plan to charge no-shows from GP appointments in England £10, with his spokesman admitting that ‘now is not the right time’
What does the last appointment data from the GP show?
NHS Digital data provides an overview of GP appointment statistics for September.
GP appointments: 28,251,282
Missed appointments: 1,399,358 (5%)
Home visits: 0.7%
Other practice staff: 48.9%
A Downing Street spokeswoman said today: ‘The Prime Minister wants to deliver a stronger NHS and the feeling remains that people should not miss their appointments and take up NHS time.
“But we have listened to GPs and health leaders and acknowledged that now is not the right time to continue this policy.”
The comments mark a turning point, after a spokesman this week told the Daily Telegram that Mr. Sunak ‘stands by the sentiment’ of the pledge.
However, the move had to be discussed with the newly appointed Health Minister, Steve Barclay, before the commitment could be confirmed.
When he first brought up the plan, Mr Sunak acknowledged it was controversial but said it was necessary to avoid wasting doctors’ time.
Mr Sunak said: ‘Under my government there will never be a charge for care in our NHS. But I will charge people who waste precious NHS time making appointments and not being there.”
Under the plan, people would have been fined from the second appointment they miss, with the patient “given the benefit of the doubt” the first time they miss one.
He suggested it be introduced until the growing backlog of the NHS due to the pandemic was “reduced to manageable levels”.
Sunak had announced the plan in July as part of his ‘transformative’ shakeup of the NHS as he battled Liz Truss to succeed Boris Johnson.
But now that he has succeeded Ms. Truss after her brief stint in number 10, Mr. Sunak has failed to keep the promises of the first campaign.
Annually, more than 15 million appointments are not attended by patients in general practices.
Half of these work for busy GPs, meaning 1.2 million hours of their time is lost every year.
The annual cost of missed appointments is £216 million, enough to pay the annual salaries of 2,325 full-time GPs, according to the now prime minister’s campaign.
It comes as NHS Digital data this week revealed that nearly 1.4 million GP appointments were missed in September this year, marking the highest monthly toll since November last year.
In the summer, the British Medical Association, the union that represents doctors, condemned the plan to fine people £10 for missing an appointment.
Commenting on the missed appointment details, Dr Farah Jameel, chair of the BMA’s GP Committee, said she “strongly encourages patients to do their best to attend their GP appointments”.
However, she said: “However, there are many reasons why someone might not be able to attend their appointment, and so a one-size-fits-all approach to charging them won’t work – and could even put pressure on staff. increase by another, unnecessary administrative burden and lead to increased anxiety in many patients.
‘Fining patients is also likely to discourage them from rebooking, exacerbating already worsening health inequalities and ultimately costing the NHS more.
“Charging for missed GP and hospital appointments would not only undermine the essential trust between doctor and patient, but also threaten the fundamental NHS principle of providing care free of charge when it is needed.”
Professor Martin Marshall, President of the Royal College of GPs, said: ‘It is always frustrating to hear about missed GP appointments, especially at a time when we don’t have nearly enough GPs to meet the increasing need for our services, as these could have been used. for other patients.
‘But charging agreements is not the solution.
“It would fundamentally change the principle that the NHS is free in the moment of need and would probably affect the most vulnerable patients the most – and it would add an extra layer of bureaucracy to a GP service that is already drowning in bureaucracy.”