Sunak abandons key leadership pledge to fine patients £10 for missing GP appointments
Rishi Sunak shares first video from 10 Downing Street
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Rishi Sunak has abandoned a key leadership pledge to charge patients £10 for missing GP appointments, with his spokesperson admitting that “now is not the time” to introduce the policy. During summer’s leadership campaign, Mr Sunak pledged to charge NHS patients £10 if they miss appointments as part of a “transformative” shake-up of the NHS. Mr Sunak said it was “not right” that patients were failing to turn up for consultations, scans and check-ups, saying they were “taking those slots away from people who need [them]”.
Under the previously announced policy, patients would be granted “the benefit of the doubt” for the first missed appointment, but subsequent missed appointments would result in a £10 charge.
But speaking today, the Prime Minister’s spokesperson said: “The PM wants to deliver a stronger NHS and the sentiment remains that people shouldn’t be missing their appointments and taking up NHS time.
“But, he has listened to GPs and health workers and we acknowledge that now is not the time to take this policy forward.”
The policy faced criticism from health professionals, with the NHS Confederation saying that “unfairly penalising” patients would not solve the problem and suggested the administrative cost would outweigh the benefits.
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Dr Layla McCay, the organisation’s director of policy, explained: “It is important to recognise that the reasons patients do not or cannot attend their appointments will be complex.
“Penalising them unfairly will not solve the problem and working with local communities to address the root causes is essential.
“The administrative burden this would place on the NHS risks being considerable and could well far outweigh the money brought in by the fines.”
She added: “This proposal will also not solve the fundamental and long-term issues the NHS is currently grappling with.
“These include health service staffing levels with vacancies which now stand at 105,000 as well as the impact of spiralling inflation costs on the NHS, and the ongoing pressures being felt across the whole system including in social care.”
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Mr Sunak pledged to charge NHS patients £10 if they miss appointments (Image: Getty)
Mr Sunak made the pledge during summer’s leadership campaign (Image: Getty)
Mr Sunak visited Croydon Hospital earlier today, where he spoke to reporters about his vision for the country.
He said the Conservative Party is “united behind delivering on the promise of the manifesto that we were elected on, with very strong support, in 2019.
“What does that manifesto say? It says we want to have a stronger NHS, that we want safer streets, that we want better schools, that we want to protect our borders and that we want to level up the economy across our country.
“That is what unites and excites all Conservatives, that is what excites me, and that is what I want to deliver for the people of this country.”
The Prime Minister also promised to put “fairness at the heart” of the “difficult decisions” the Government will be making in the coming weeks.
He continued: “I acknowledged that mistakes have been made and part of why I’m now Prime Minister is my job is to fix them – and I’m confident that we can.
“The Chancellor has already said of course difficult decisions are going to have to be made. And I’m going to sit down and work through those with him.
“But what I want everyone to know is that we need to do these things so that we can get our borrowing and debt back on a sustainable path.
“That’s important because it means that we can get a grip of inflation. If we do that, it means we can limit as best as possible the increase in interest rates, which is important.”
My Sunak added: “But as we do that, I want people to be reassured, we will always do it with fairness at the heart, we will protect the most vulnerable and ensure that we can continue to grow the economy in the long run.”