Rishi Sunak backtracks on fining patients £10 if they miss NHS appointments

Rishi Sunak has ditched a Tory leadership campaign pledge to fine patients who miss GP and hospital appointments £10.

The Prime Minister backtracked on the plan he outlined in his first attempt at leading the country this year after it was widely criticised by health leaders.

He had argued it was “not right” that some patients were failing to turn up and “taking those slots away from people who need” them.

Among the critics, the British Medical Association (BMA) said the plans would “make matters worse” and threaten the principle of free NHS care at the point of need.

But on Friday, a Downing Street spokeswoman said: “The PM wants to deliver a stronger NHS and the sentiment remains that people should not be missing their appointments and taking up NHS time.

“But we have listened to GPs and health leaders and have acknowledged that now is not the right time to take this policy forward.”

Mr Sunak had announced the “transformative” shake-up of the NHS in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph in July as he was battling Liz Truss to succeed Boris Johnson.

But now he has succeeded Ms Truss after her brief time in No 10, Mr Sunak was not standing by the promises of the first campaign.

Instead, his press secretary was stressing he is “committed to delivering the commitments made in the manifesto” that the Tories brought to the 2019 general election.

In the summer, Mr Sunak had billed the fines as being a necessary temporary measure until the post-coronavirus backlogs are tackled.

“Under my government there will never be charges for care in our NHS. But I will charge people who waste valuable NHS time by booking appointments and failing to attend,” he said.

The Tory membership chose Ms Truss over Mr Sunak, but he managed to succeed her by winning the nominations of Tory MPs on Monday after her reign in No 10 disastrously ended.