New prime minister, Rishi Sunak, plans to proceed with fining people in England £10 for every NHS appointment they miss. Mr. Sunak first floated the policy during his failed Conservative party leadership race against Liz Truss during the summer.
When asked on Wednesday if the new prime minister intended to press on with the policy a No. 10 spokeswoman said Mr. Sunak “stands by the sentiment” and how he is “definitely committed to ensuring that we get the best value for taxpayers, the best value for money out of the NHS”. The spokeswoman also said that before the scheme could become official government policy prime minister Sunak would discuss it first with his newly appointed Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Steve Barclay, MP.
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.
NHS England also states that there are around 307 million sessions scheduled with GPs, nurses, therapists and other practice staff every year and 5% – one in twenty – are missed without enough notice to invite other patients.
The British Medical Association (BMA), which is the trade union for doctors, condemned the policy when it first put forward by Mr. Sunak earlier this year. The BMA said “financially penalising patients inevitably impacts the poorest” and said it 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”.
Mr. Bradfield 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.”
“Mr. Bradfield continued: “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.”