£10 fine for an NHS no-show, says Rishi Sunak

Rishi Sunak has pledged to bring in fines for patients who do not show for NHS appointments - Christopher Pledger for The Telegraph
Rishi Sunak has pledged to bring in fines for patients who do not show for NHS appointments - Christopher Pledger for The Telegraph

Rishi Sunak would introduce a £10 fine for missed GP and hospital appointments as part of a "transformative" shake-up of the NHS, the former chancellor has said.

In an interview with The Telegraph, the Conservative leadership hopeful said it was "not right" that patients were failing to turn up for consultations, scans and check-ups, "taking those slots away from people who need [them]".

Pledging to revive the "reforming zeal" of "the early days of the Coalition", the former chancellor said he would begin by levying fines in cases where patients fail to attend an appointment without providing sufficient notice to allow the surgery or hospital to offer the slot to others.

The first time a patient misses an appointment, they would be given "the benefit of the doubt", but subsequent missed appointments would incur charges of £10 each time.

The system would be "temporary" as the NHS tries to clear the Covid-19 backlog of more than six million patients waiting for planned care.

Rishi Sunak meets Tory members at Fontwell Park racecourse on Saturday - Joe Sene/PA wire
Rishi Sunak meets Tory members at Fontwell Park racecourse on Saturday - Joe Sene/PA wire

Mr Sunak said that, as chancellor, "I was frustrated that the focus of government was far more on spending money on public services ... and there was not enough of a focus about reforming them”, adding: “I want to be a transformational prime minister."

Separately, Mr Sunak admitted that he insisted on increasing National Insurance after the Prime Minister made clear that he wanted to significantly increase NHS spending and pour new funds into social care. Liz Truss, his opponent, has pledged to reverse the rise.

On Saturday, a Savanta ComRes poll of 511 Tory councillors put Mr Sunak and Ms Truss almost neck-and-neck among local Tory representatives, with Ms Truss on 31 per cent and Mr Sunak on 29 per cent. Some 32 per cent are still undecided, days before party members receive their ballot papers this week.

In total, 88 per cent of those surveyed said the next prime minister must reform the NHS.

Mr Sunak has also pledged to help the country's high streets by allowing councils to double the current fines that can be imposed on those who blight towns with graffiti and litter. He is also considering plans to make it easier to convert empty shops into venues such as cafes.

Outlining his plan to introduce fines for missed NHS appointments, Mr Sunak said: "If they're not being used, then that's a waste. So if we can change that, then we basically get more out of the money that we're putting in today. It's a good example of a Conservative approach to that problem."

According to NHS England, more than 15 million appointments at GP surgeries are wasted each year due to patients failing to show up or warn surgeries that they will not be attending.  Almost 4.5 million appointments were missed between January and April this year alone.

Previously, doctors have objected to proposals to fine those who miss appointments, on the basis that such a scheme would introduce a new layer of bureaucracy for hard-pressed surgeries and could deter patients who need care.

But Mr Sunak said: "I was told that with all the various things that I had to do during furlough, during the pandemic, 'all this is too complicated' or 'we aren't going to get this done in time'. I found ways to do it.

"Yes, it means we have to do something brave and something different, but that's what I'm about doing."

Rishi Sunak campaigning in Winchester on Saturday - Chris J Ratcliffe/PA wire
Rishi Sunak campaigning in Winchester on Saturday - Chris J Ratcliffe/PA wire

Writing in The Telegraph, Lord Forsyth, who served as a minister under Margaret Thatcher and Sir John Major, accused Mr Sunak of a "tendency to be driven by Treasury orthodoxy" - adding: "Conservatives believe in sound money, encouraging small business and lower, fairer, flatter, simpler taxes. I’m not sure Rishi entirely gets that."

But Mr Sunak insisted: "My plan challenges the orthodoxy of the last 10 years, which has been shown to be spectacularly wrong."