GPs can no longer charge patients for debt and mental health forms

GPs in England can no longer charge patients for completing debt and mental health evidence forms, following the introduction of a new shortened version of the form today.

(Photo: Francesco Carta fotografo/Getty Images)

As part of an arrangement under the five-year GP contract, the BMA agreed that practices would stop charging patients when the new form was introduced.

Under the agreement the membership bodies for banks and debt collectors, UK Finance and the Credit Services Association, said that lenders would only request the information from GPs as a last resort.

The BMA said that it now expected creditors and debt advisers to trust customers' own accounts of their mental health conditions 'and only ask for evidence if absolutely necessary'. It added that if evidence was required a prescription, appointment letter or benefits letter could be used to confirm a person's diagnosis, rather than requiring a GP to complete the form.

If the individual has none of these, then a GP may still need to complete the form. However, GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey said that the new version was shorter and clearer.

He added: 'We want to empower patients by encouraging the use of self-certification and reduce the need for GP practice involvement in these situations, but we hope that, where that's not possible, this updated form will now make things quicker and easier for those to get the help they need and deserve.'

Debt and mental health

At the time the contract agreement was announced in February, the BMA said that if there were situations where a more complex report was required, the lender involved should ask the GP to complete the report and the lender, rather than the patient, should ‘pay an appropriate fee’.

The debt and mental health evidence form was introduced by advice organisations and credit firms to enable people with mental health conditions to request easier repayment terms or reduced charges on debt.

There are versions of the form in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland that are not covered by this agreement. However, the BMA previously said that it hoped when the new system was established in England it would be reviewed and considered in the other three nations.

The new agreement comes in response to the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute's Stop the Charge campaign, which launched over two years ago. Research by the organisation found that around one in three people with mental health problems who asked a GP to complete the debt and mental health form were charged for it.

The charity said that the charge was preventing some people from getting help to resolve their debts, while others were going without food or heating to pay for the charge.

In a blog published earlier this week, Money and Mental Health chief executive Helen Undy said: 'This new process only applies in England, and we want to stop the charge right across the UK. We’ll be stepping up our work with the devolved nations over the coming months to ensure that we can get the same approach adopted everywhere.'

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