Your questions answered
Why is there a charge? Isn’t the NHS supposed to be free?
The National Health Service provides most health care to most people free of charge, but there are exceptions: prescription charges have existed since 1951 and there are a number of other services for which fees are charged. Sometimes the fee is charged to cover the cost of treatment for example, dental fees but in other cases it is because the service is not covered by the NHS for example medical reports for insurance companies, private letters for patients.
Surely the Doctor is being paid anyway?
It is important to understand that GPs are paid to carry out NHS work which takes priority. Charges for non NHS work are made to cover costs.
What is covered by the NHS and what is not?
In recent years more and more organisations have been involving doctors in a whole range of non-medical work. Sometimes the only reason a GP is asked is because they are in a position of trust within the community or because an employer or insurance company wants to be sure that information provided to them is true and accurate.
Examples of non-NHS services for which GPs can charge their NHS patients are:
- Accident/sickness insurance certificates
- Certain travel vaccinations
- Private medical insurance reports
- Private letters such as housing letters
- HGV/taxi medicals
Examples of non-NHS services for which GPs can charge other organisations for are:
- Medical reports for insurance companies
- Some reports for Department of Social Security/Benefits Agency/Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority
Why does it sometimes take my GP a long time to complete my form?
- Time spent completing forms and preparing reports and letters takes the GP away from the NHS medical care of his/her patients. Our GPs have a very heavy workload and private requests for non-NHS work takes up an increasing amount of time. We currently have a patient list size of around 13,400 patients of which we receive a large number of requests each day for non-NHS work for our patients.
I only need the Doctor’s signature – what is the problem?
- When a GP 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 GP may have to check the patient’s entire medical record. Carelessness or an inaccurate report can have serious consequences for the GP with the General Medical Council or even the police. We do not sign passports at our practice.
What Fee will I be charged?
- The BMA (British Medical Association) recommends that GPs tell patients in advance if they will be charged and how much. It is up to individual GPs and practices to decide how much a patient can be charged.
- Where any blood tests/immunisations are required for example drugs screening/HIV testing for certain medicals such as for an employment medical etc, an additional charge will be made for these. Patients will receive a separate bill from the pathology department at the Hospital.
What can patients do to help?
- Do not expect your GP to process your request either on the day or overnight. We appreciate that your request is extremely important to you however, we will aim to process you request as soon as practicably possible for the GP.
- Please be patient – our reception and administration staff cannot speed up a patient request by being put under pressure. As soon as your request is ready you will be contacted by a member of our administration or reception team.
- If you think you have been waiting too long, you are welcome to phone and check that we have your request but please do not call every day.
We hope that this information helps our patients to understand the reasons why we charge a fee for non-NHS work and the timescales involved.