Sunak would fine patients for missing appointments
August 10, 2022
LONDON, UK – Conservative Party leadership candidate Rishi Sunak (pictured) has shaken things up in the U.K. by pledging to fine patients £10 who do not show up for NHS appointments. In an interview with The Telegraph newspaper, 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].”
Pledging to revive the “reforming zeal” of “the early days of the Coalition”, the former chancellor said he would begin by levying fines in cases where patients fail to attend an appointment without providing sufficient notice to allow the surgery or hospital to offer the slot to others.
The first time a patient misses an appointment, they would be given “the benefit of the doubt”, but subsequent missed appointments would incur charges of £10 each time. The system would be “temporary” as the NHS tries to clear the Covid-19 backlog of more than six million patients waiting for planned care.
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,” adding: “I want to be a transformational prime minister.”
Separately, Mr. Sunak admitted that he insisted on increasing National Insurance after the Prime Minister made clear that he wanted to significantly increase NHS spending and pour new funds into social care. Liz Truss, his opponent, has pledged to reverse the rise.
On Saturday, a Savanta ComRes poll of 511 Tory councillors put Mr. Sunak and Ms. Truss almost neck-and-neck among local Tory representatives, with Ms. Truss at 31 per cent and Mr. Sunak at 29 per cent. Some 32 per cent are still undecided.
In total, 88 per cent of those surveyed said the next prime minister must reform the NHS.
Outlining his plan to introduce fines for missed NHS appointments, Mr. Sunak said: “If they’re not being used, then that’s a waste. So if we can change that, then we basically get more out of the money that we’re putting in today. It’s a good example of a Conservative approach to that problem.”
According to NHS England, more than 15 million appointments at GP surgeries are wasted each year due to patients failing to show up or warn surgeries that they will not be attending. Almost 4.5 million appointments were missed between January and April this year alone.
Previously, doctors have objected to proposals to fine those who miss appointments, on the basis that such a scheme would introduce a new layer of bureaucracy for hard-pressed surgeries and could deter patients who need care.
But Mr. Sunak said: “I was told that with all the various things that I had to do during furlough, during the pandemic, ‘all this is too complicated’ or ‘we aren’t going to get this done in time’. I found ways to do it. Yes, it means we have to do something brave and something different, but that’s what I’m about doing.”
Writing in The Telegraph, Lord Forsyth, who served as a minister under Margaret Thatcher and Sir John Major, accused Sunak of a “tendency to be driven by Treasury orthodoxy”, adding: “Conservatives believe in sound money, encouraging small business and lower, fairer, flatter, simpler taxes. I’m not sure Rishi entirely gets that.”
But Mr. Sunak insisted, “My plan challenges the orthodoxy of the last 10 years, which has been shown to be spectacularly wrong.”
Responding to reports that Rishi Sunak proposes to fine patients £10 for a missed GP or hospital appointment, Dr. Layla McCay, director of policy at the NHS Confederation said, “At a time when general practice and other services are facing record levels of demand, health service leaders are working hard to use their stretched resources well. This includes supporting patients to attend appointments, and there are a range of ways this support has been extended already, including home visits, longer and weekend opening hours, remote consultations and managing appointments via the NHS app.
“However, 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.
“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.”