Rishi Sunak ditches pledge to fine patients who miss GP appointments £10

Rishi Sunak ditches pledge to fine patients who miss GP appointments £10

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

A No 10 spokeswoman said on Friday: “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.”

Health unions had previously criticised the plans as unworkable, claiming that the cost of administrating the policy would cancel out the amount of funds that it brings in.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, left, speaks with patient Sreeja Gopalan as he visits Croydon University hospital (AP)
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, left, speaks with patient Sreeja Gopalan as he visits Croydon University hospital (AP)

During the Tory leadership campaign, Mr Sunak vowed to introduce a temporary £10 charge for patients who failed to turn up for an appointment without providing notice.

He said that patients would be given the “benefit of the doubt” the first time around but would face fines for further missed appointments.

Reacting to the plans in July, the British Medical Association (BMA) said it “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,” said BMA chairman Philip Banfield.

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said the “cost of administrating” the policy would be “as much as anything you raise by it”.

“Fining is going to gum up the system with a huge bureaucracy of chasing people and, in the end, if it’s a £10 fine, are we actually going to follow it up,” he asked in July.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks with patient Brenda Boyling as he visits Croydon University hospital (Getty Images)
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks with patient Brenda Boyling as he visits Croydon University hospital (Getty Images)

Figures released on Thursday showed that the number of GP appointments climbed to its highest total in six months in September with a total of 28,251,282 offered up. Over a third (68.1 per cent) were carried out face to face, the highest number since before the Covid pandemic.

Analysis by the Standard found that the number of people not attending their booked GP appointment has jumped by nearly a fifth in a month in September.

Figures published by NHS Digital on Thursday showed that 1,399,358 people did not attend a GP appointment in September — a jump of 17 per cent on the previous month.

The latest figures also show the proportion of GPs in England working full-time at local surgeries continues to be at its lowest level since current records began nearly seven years ago.

Fewer than one in four (23 per cent) qualified permanent GPs worked at least 37.5 hours a week in September 2022, while nearly seven in 10 (69 per cent) worked between 15 and 37.5 hours.