‘Not the answer’: Rishi Sunak’s plan to fine patients £10 for missed appointments under fire

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Rishi Sunak’s proposal to introduce a temporary £10 fine for patients who miss NHS appointments would exacerbate health inequalities and likely worsen the backlog, a major union has warned.

Unveiling the policy, the former Chancellor, who is struggling to revitalize his No10 bid against rival Liz Truss, said the NHS is ‘supposed to be free at the point of use, not free at the point of use. abusive use”.

About 6.6 million patients were waiting for planned care in May, and Mr Sunak’s team said tackling the 15 million missed appointments each year could be ‘instrumentation’ to address the backlog .

Patients who miss an appointment for the first time would benefit from the doubt, but further no-shows would incur a £10 charge each time. GPs and hospital trusts could use their “discretion” in “exceptional circumstances”, they added.

The British Medical Association (BMA), however, said the policy was not the answer to tackling the growing NHS backlog, saying a £10 fine for missing an appointment with the general practitioner “would probably make things worse”.

Professor Philip Banfield, Chairman of the Board of the BMA, stressed that charging patients for missed appointments ‘would threaten the fundamental principle that the NHS provides free care at the point of need, for all’.

“Although it is frustrating when patients do not show up, the reasons why this happens should be investigated rather than simply resorting to punishment,” he added.

“Financially penalizing patients inevitably has an impact on the poorest and most vulnerable in the community. This may discourage them from rebooking, already exacerbating worsening health inequalities and costing the NHS more.

Dr Gary Howsam, vice-president of the Royal College of GPs, also said that while missed appointments are “frustrating”, charging patients “is not the solution”.

He added: “It would fundamentally change the principle that the NHS is free at the point of need and would probably have the biggest impact on our most vulnerable patients – and it would add another layer of bureaucracy to an already GP service. drowned in bureaucracy.

“We also have to remember that this can happen for many reasons. For some patients, missed appointments may be a sign that something more serious is going on and follow-up action is needed.

“For some, it will be human error. For others, especially if the appointment was long-standing, it may no longer be necessary.

Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, said: ‘Sunak’s attention-seeking gimmick will do nothing to solve the worst crisis in NHS history. This is a dangerous end of the wedge that will penalize the most vulnerable and would cost more in administration than it would increase.

Announcing the policy, Mr Sunak added: ‘Missed appointments are a significant cost to the NHS. But worse than the cost is the impact on other patients waiting to be seen.

“Everyone should be able to get an appointment with their GP, and those waiting to see a consultant should be seen as soon as possible. But the millions of missed appointments are making it harder for people to get the care they need.

“Under my government there will never be a charge for care in our NHS. But I will charge people who waste valuable NHS time by making appointments and not showing up.

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