Practices are to stop charging patients for completing paperwork that confirms that people with debt problems have mental health issues, it was announced today.
The British Medical Association set out the steps to be taken to put an end to the charges, which have angered campaigners.
Some patients have been charged more than £100 for the forms and the cost has usually been £30 to £50 and the agreement to end charges was included in the recently agreed GP contract.
The BMA said practices should end charging when a new “shortened and simplified” version of the form is introduced.
The organisation said increasingly patients would be able to provide their own evidence, using their own medical records.
Money expert Martin Lewis, who led the campaign, said he was “over the moon” at the news. He said: “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 coordination of all the groups involved to produce the new paper work.”
BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey 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.”