In an interview with The Telegraph on Saturday, July 30, Rishi Sunak said it was “not right” that patients were failing to turn up for consultations, scans and check-ups, “taking those slots away from people who need [them]”. He pledged to revive the NHS by issuing fines to patients for failing to attend appointments without sufficient notice.
The first time a patient misses an appointment they would be given “the benefit of the doubt”, but “second or subsequent” absences would incur a £10 charge each time.
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This would be a “temporary” solution to help the NHS clear the backlog caused by the pandemic.
Around 6.6 million patients were waiting for care in May and 15 million appointments are missed each year.
Mr Sunak said that as Chancellor: “I was frustrated that the focus of Government was far more on spending money on public services…and there was not enough of a focus about reforming them.”
He added: “I want to be a transformational Prime Minister.”
His announcement was criticised by the British Medical Association (BMA) who said that the policy would “likely make matters worse”.
Professor Philip Banfield, the BMA council chair, stressed that charging patients for missed appointments would “threaten the fundamental principle that the NHS delivers free care at the point of need, for all.”
He continued: “While it is frustrating when patients do not attend, the reasons why this happens should be investigated rather than simply resorting to punishing them.
“Financially penalising patients inevitably impacts the poorest and most vulnerable in the community.
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“This may discourage them from rebooking, exacerbating already worsening health inequalities and costing the NHS more.”
Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said: “Sunak’s attention-seeking gimmick will do nothing to solve the worst crisis in NHS history.
“This is a dangerous thin end of the wedge that will penalise the most vulnerable and would cost more in admin than it would raise.”
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