Medical establishment joins together against harmful NHS charging policy
Published 20th December 2018
Following a string of media reports revealing the harm caused by NHS charging to Doctors of the World patients and others, the Royal College of Physicians (RCP), Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the Faculty of Public Health (FPH) have today joined together to call for a suspension of the charging regulations pending an independent review.
In doing so, they’ve joined other voices, including the British Medical Association Council Chair, Dr Chaand Nagpaul and Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, who have recently come out against the charging policy in the face of growing evidence of dangerous and discriminatory practices in NHS hospitals.
Since October 2017, NHS hospitals in England are legally required to check all patients’ eligibility to free NHS care and issue inflated upfront charges to those unable to prove eligibility. For those unable to pay in full in advance, treatment can be withheld.
Even though urgent care should always be provided (but billed for later), Doctors of the World UK has dealt with a number of cases of patients’ urgent care being wrongfully delayed or denied. Indeed, research at our clinic showed that one in five patients are affected by healthcare charging and, of those, one in three deterred from seeking timely healthcare.
Examples include a woman with breast cancer who was refused a mammogram at a London hospital after an urgent referral from her GP, a survivor of sex trafficking who was chased for charges she wasn’t liable to pay after suffering a miscarriage, and Elfreda Spencer, who was refused treatment for advanced-stage cancer and, ultimately palliative care.
Harm being done to patients is clear. But as today’s statement highlighted, the response from government has been inadequate at best. Despite receiving evidence like the cases above from Doctors of the World and many others, the Department of Health found that there was “no significant evidence” of deterrence or of a negative impact on public health.
We applaud the RCP, RCPCH, RCOG and FPH for their announcement today, and congratulate all of the NHS professionals, across multiple specialities, who are standing up for the rights and wellbeing of their patients, regardless of who they are or where they came from.
For more information about these charges: DoTW_Guide_to_Healthcare_entitlement-2018_final.