GPs to stop charging for mental health debt forms
GPs in England are to stop charging for completing paperwork that people with mental health and debt problems can be asked to provide to creditors and debt collectors in order to receive additional support. The move has been welcomed by Martin Lewis following a two-year campaign by the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute.
The British Medical Association (BMA) – the professional association for doctors – has pledged that all GPs in England will stop charging for the debt and mental health evidence form, which can in some cases cost more than £100.
They will stop charging for the paperwork when a shorter and simplified version of the form is introduced, which will make it easier and quicker to complete.
UK Finance and the Credit Services Association – the membership bodies for UK banks and debt collectors respectively – have also agreed to advise firms to only request the form as a last resort.
The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute (MMHPI), which was founded by Martin Lewis, launched its Stop the Charge campaign more than two years ago, after it found that about one in three people who asked a GP to complete the form were being charged for it.
The change is part of the new five year GP contract recently agreed with NHS England, but won't happen straight away, as first Government needs to co-ordinate putting the new form in place. MMPHI says it will continue to campaign to end charges for the form in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Martin: 'This puts us in touching distance of ending this injustice'
Martin Lewis, founder and chair of the MMHPI, said: "We're over the moon that the BMA has finally agreed to stop people with mental health and debt problems being charged for the paperwork they need to get help.
"These charges can play havoc with people's financial and mental wellbeing, often when they are at their lowest ebb – leaving many avoiding asking for the help they desperately need.
"Today's announcement puts us in touching distance of ending this injustice. We have a momentous agreement from banks, doctors and debt collectors, who are all ready to play their part.
"Now the agreement is there, we just need the Government to lead the co-ordination of all the groups involved to produce the new paperwork. Then we will be able to stop these charges once and for all."
What are mental health debt forms?
The debt and mental health evidence form is often required by creditors before they offer additional debt support to people with mental health problems.
It is most commonly completed by a GP, although other health professionals can fill it in.
As this isn't an official NHS form, the current rules do allow GPs to charge, just as they can for certification that a patient is fit to fly on holiday.
What is the Stop the Charge campaign?
The Stop the Charge campaign was launched following research by the charity which showed that:
- About one in three people with mental health problems who asked a GP to complete the form were charged for it.
- Charges were usually between £30 to £50, but some people were asked to pay more – in a few cases over £100.
- The charge is preventing some people from getting help to resolve their debts, while others are going without essentials such as food or heating in order to pay the charge.
What does the BMA say?
Dr Richard Vautrey, chair of the BMA GP Committee in England, said he wanted patients to be empowered to provide evidence of their condition.
He said: "We want to maximise the use of self-certified declaration but where that's not possible, we will explore how this can be done by an appropriate health and social care professional or support worker known to the patient.
"We want to reduce, as far as possible, the need for GP practice involvement. When involvement is necessary, using a newly-designed, much-simplified form, practices will not charge patients to complete it.
"There may be times when a more complex health report is required by a bank or other lender, and in those rare circumstances, those reports need to be sought directly from the practice by a lender and the lender would pay an appropriate fee, not the patient."