Why do GP’s sometimes charge fees?
The NHS provides most health care to most people free of charge, but there are a exceptions: prescription charges have existed since 1951, and there are a number of other services for which fees are charged. Sometimes the charge is made to cover some of the cost of treatment such as travel vaccination in other cases it is because the service is not covered by the NHS, for example medical reports for insurance companies.
Surely the doctor is being paid anyway?
It is important to understand that GP’s are not employed by the NHS, they are self-employed, and they have to cover their costs- staff, buildings, heating, lighting etc. in the same way as any other small business. The NHS covers costs for NHS work, but for non-NHS work the fee has to cover the doctor’s costs.
What is covered by the NHS and what is not?
The Government’s contract with the GP covers medical services to NHS patients. In recent years, more and more organisations have been involving doctors in a whole range of non-medical work. Sometimes the only reason that GP’s are asked is because they are in a position of trust in the community, or because an insurance company or employer wants to be sure that information provided is true and accurate.
Examples of Non-NHS services are:
- Certain Travel Vaccinations
- Private medical reports
- Private certificates
- Accident/sickness insurance certificates
- Passport signing
Examples of non-NHS services for which GP’s can charge other institutions are:
- Medical reports for an insurance company
- Some reports for DSS/Benefits Agency
- Medical Examinations
- Foster/Adoption Medicals
Why does it sometimes take my GP a long time to complete my form?
Time spent completing forms and preparing reports takes the GP away from medical care of his or her patients. Most GP’s have a very heavy workload- the majority work up to 60 hours a week- and paperwork takes up an increasing amount of their time, so many GP’s find they have to work very late at night or at the weekends.
I only need the doctor’s signature-What is the problem?
When a doctor signs a certificate or completes a report, it is a condition of remaining on the Medical Register that they only sign what they know to be true. In order to complete even the simplest of forms, therefore, the doctor must check the patient’s entire medical record. Carelessness or an in accurate report can have serious consequences for the doctor with the General Medical Council or even the Police.
What will I be charged?
The BMA recommends that GP’s tell patients in advance if they will be charged, and how much. It is up to the practice to decide how much, the surgery has a list of fees in reception and is reviewed annually.
What can I do to help?
Not all documents need a signature by a doctor, for example passport applications. You can ask another person in a position of trust to sign such documents
If you have several forms requiring completion, present them all at once
Do not expect your GP to process forms overnight: Allow at least up to 6 weeks
Urgent requests may mean that a doctor has to make special arrangements to process the form quickly, and this may cost more.
Ensure that all consent forms attached to claim forms are completed.