Examining The Proposal To Fine Those Who Miss GP Appointments

Maddie Dinnage

In an attempt to crack down on the 15 million wasted GP appointments per year, new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak proposed a £10 fine for patients who miss appointments without a cancellation warning. Number 10 reports he has since U-turned on the idea. Impact‘s Maddie Dinnage reports.

NHS England has previously urged patients to warn their GP surgery if they are unable to attend an appointment. However, at each missed appointment costing the NHS an average of £30, the yearly cost for wasted time and resources totals £216 million. 

In response to this, Sunak has suggested that those who fail to cancel their appointment with enough notice to allocate the slot to another patient should face a fine. Patients would not have been fined for their first missed appointment, but would be fined £10 for every appointment missed after that one.

This proposed scheme has since been dropped following backlash from the general public, as well as The British Medical Association (BMA). However, it is important to consider how this proposal may have been a means of reassigning the blame away from the Conservative party, and onto the general public, with regards to the underwhelming financial pressure which continues to burden the NHS following the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The scheme would disproportionately affect the working class population

The BMA, the trade union which serves to support doctors across Britain, rightfully condemned the proposed scheme when it was first suggested by Sunak during his race to leadership against fellow Conservative MP Liz Truss. The union pointed out the fact that the scheme would disproportionately affect the working-class population, as well as the most vulnerable members of our society.  

The suggested scheme would have a staggering effect upon those of whom are less financially stable, as well as those suffering from chronic illnesses or debilitating mental health issues. Such conditions make a patient’s ability to travel to and attend GP appointments unpredictable, therefore, penalising these people with a financial penalty is an inherently ableist notion. It would additionally deter these patients from booking follow up appointments, increasing the risks to their health and well-being. 

It is also important to note that the scheme would only worsen the financial stress upon the NHS, with more time and resources being wasted through the need to chase up those who are required to pay the fine.  

Sunak is actively attempting to obscure blame with regards to the lack of support for the NHS

Dr Banfield of the BMA states that ‘Instead of reheating ideas that are of no practical value, the next prime minister should be urgently seeking to restore the confidence of the profession in this Government by tackling the huge losses in pay suffered over the last decade, scrapping the unfair pensions-tax rules forcing many experienced clinicians out of the NHS, and ensuring the NHS is adequately resourced for the huge challenges it faces.’

Instead, it seems, Sunak is actively attempting to obscure blame with regards to the lack of support for the NHS, following the Conservative party’s failure to adequately increase NHS workers’ wages in line with rising inflation.  

Sunak joins a series of Tory leaders who have failed to address the real issues facing our National Health Service, with workers being subject to physical, mental and financial stress. These conditions have led to a mass exodus of NHS staff, with those remaining considering a change in career as a result of extreme burnout. 

Although the idea has since been scrapped, it is important to stay alert to the many ways in which the Conservative government attempt to unload a sense of responsibility upon the members of society who are most in need of aid.  

Maddie Dinnage

Featured image courtesy of National Cancer Institute via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image. 

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