Rishi Sunak has abandoned a key leadership pledge to charge patients £10 for missing GP appointments, with his spokesperson admitting that “now is not the time” to introduce the policy. During summer’s leadership campaign, Mr Sunak pledged to charge NHS patients £10 if they miss appointments as part of a “transformative” shake-up of the NHS. Mr Sunak said it was “not right” that patients were failing to turn up for consultations, scans and check-ups, saying they were “taking those slots away from people who need [them]”.
Under the previously announced policy, patients would be granted “the benefit of the doubt” for the first missed appointment, but subsequent missed appointments would result in a £10 charge.
But speaking today, the Prime Minister’s spokesperson said: “The PM wants to deliver a stronger NHS and the sentiment remains that people shouldn’t be missing their appointments and taking up NHS time.
“But, he has listened to GPs and health workers and we acknowledge that now is not the time to take this policy forward.”
The policy faced criticism from health professionals, with the NHS Confederation saying that “unfairly penalising” patients would not solve the problem and suggested the administrative cost would outweigh the benefits.
Dr Layla McCay, the organisation’s director of policy, explained: “It is important to recognise that the reasons patients do not or cannot attend their appointments will be complex.
“Penalising them unfairly will not solve the problem and working with local communities to address the root causes is essential.
“The administrative burden this would place on the NHS risks being considerable and could well far outweigh the money brought in by the fines.”
She added: “This proposal will also not solve the fundamental and long-term issues the NHS is currently grappling with.
“These include health service staffing levels with vacancies which now stand at 105,000 as well as the impact of spiralling inflation costs on the NHS, and the ongoing pressures being felt across the whole system including in social care.”