Why does Victoria Park Health Centre sometimes charge fees? Isn't the NHS supposed to be free?
The National Health Service provides most health care to most people free of charge, but there are exceptions: prescription charges have existed since 1951, and there are a number of other services for which fees are charged. Sometimes the charge is made to cover some of the cost of treatment. For example, dental work incurs fees; this is because dental services are not covered by the NHS, and medical reports for insurance companies to, this is not really considered as providing care for patients.
Surely the doctor is being paid anyway?
It is important to understand all GPs are not employed by the NHS, they are self-employed, and they have to cover their costs - staff, buildings, heating, lighting, etc - in the same way as any small business. The NHS covers these costs for NHS work, but for non-NHS work the fee has to cover the doctor's costs.
What is covered by the NHS and what is not?
The Government's contract with Victoria Park Health Centre covers medical services to NHS patients. In recent years, more and more organisations have been involving doctors in a whole range of non-medical work. Sometimes the only reason that GPs are asked is because they are in a position of trust in the community, or because an insurance company or employer wants to be sure that information provided is true and accurate.
Examples of non-NHS services for which GPs can charge their NHS patients are:
- accident/sickness insurance certificates
- certain travel vaccinations
- private medical insurance reports
Examples of non-NHS services for which GPs can charge other institutions are:
- medical reports for an insurance company
- some reports for the DSS/Benefits Agency
- examinations of local authority employees
Is it true that the British Medical Association (BMA) sets fees for non-NHS work?
The BMA suggests fees for non-NHS work which is not covered under a GP's NHS contract, to help GPs set their own professional fees. However, these fees are guidelines only, not recommendations, and a doctor is not obliged to charge the rates suggested.
You can read more here about why GP's sometimes charge fees on the BMA website.
Why does it sometimes take my GP a long time to complete my form?
Time spent completing forms and preparing reports takes our GPs away from the medical care of his or her patients. Most GPs have a very heavy workload - the majority work up to 70 hours a week - and paperwork takes up an increasing amount of their time, so many of our GPs find they have to work extra hours to get your requests processed.
I only need the doctor's signature - What is the problem?
When a doctor signs a certificate or completes a report, it is a condition of remaining on the Medical Register that they only sign what they know to be true. In order to complete even the simplest of forms, the doctor might have to check the patient's entire medical record. Carelessness or an inaccurate report can have serious consequences for the doctor with the General Medical Council or even the Police.
What will I be charged?
The BMA recommends that GPs tell patients in advance if they will be charged, and how much. It is up to the individual practice to decide how much to charge, but the BMA produces lists of suggested fees which many doctors use. We have our non-NHS Work Pricelist displayed within reception here at Victoria Park Health Centre.
*The practice reserves the right to amend these charges without prior notice if it is deemed necessary to do so.
How long will it take?
We recommend that you allow us 28 days to process your request for any kind of non-NHS work, and requests will only be processed upon the completion of our Non-NHS Request Form.
What can I do to help?
Not all documents need a signature by a doctor, for example passport applications. You can ask another person in a position of trust to sign such documents free of charge.
Do not expect your request for any work to be completed overnight: urgent requests may mean that a doctor has to make special arrangements to process the form quickly, and this will cost more.
VPHC Non-NHS Request form
VPHC Non-NHS Work Fees Pricelist 2019