FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
GPs charging people in debt crisis up to £150 for paperwork
Charities unite behind new campaign as Martin Lewis, Chair of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, calls on the Government to stop the charge.
People with mental health problems and debt are being charged up to £150 for a doctor’s note required by their creditors to prove that they have a mental health condition and should receive extra support.
A new investigation by the charity, the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, has revealed that one in three people who ask for the Debt and Mental Health Evidence Form are being charged. This is resulting in people going without support or racking up more debt just to pay their GP.
Ian Hurst, who has depression, said:
“I was on really low benefits. Paying £20 for the doctor’s note had a big impact, it was a big chunk of the money I had left that week. I didn’t expect them to charge me. I was going to go to the shop after my appointment to get food, but after the doctor’s I didn’t have any money left. Until my benefits came in I couldn’t afford fresh food, so had to live on dry pasta and the things in the cupboard.”
One in four people with a mental health problem is also in problem debt. Research by Money and Mental Health has shown that mental health problems can make it harder both to earn and to manage money.
Many banks recognise this and are willing to offer extra financial support, freezing interest payments or even writing off some debts when people are struggling. But to access this help customers are often asked to provide evidence of their mental health problem, signed by a doctor. Since 2008, this has usually been done via a single form used by the credit industry, advice agencies like Citizens Advice and others.
The investigation by the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute reveals that one in three people who asked their GP for this note were charged for it – some as much as £150, but typically £20-£50. Charges were found right across the UK and the vast majority of those charged had incomes of less than £300 per week; 4 in 10 had incomes of less than £200 per week.
As this isn’t an official NHS form the current rules do allow GPs to charge, just as they do for certification that a patient is fit to fly on holiday. However, Money and Mental Health is calling on the UK Governments to make the Debt and Mental Health Evidence Form exempt from charges, just like a fit note for an employer or the forms that certify a patient has a health condition that makes them eligible for council tax reductions.
The call is backed by Mind, Rethink, StepChange and other leading mental health and advice charities who have together written to the UK Health Secretaries to support Money and Mental Health’s campaign and to demand change.
Commenting, Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis, Founder and Chair of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute said:
“This charge simply isn’t acceptable. It’s time for the Government to act to stop it. And we have to ask some GPs to change too. Most don’t charge, but to those that do, I’d ask ‘is it really necessary?’ We know you’re stretched and doing a hard job – but the impact this could have is huge. Mental illness and debt problems can each cause and contribute to the other. To enable people to get help with their debts more easily is likely to have a clinical impact on their mental health issues – for example research shows that recovery from depression can take longer for those in problem debt.”
Those who want to support the campaign can sign a joint letter to the UK Health Secretaries at www.moneyandmentalhealth.org/stopthecharge
Helen Undy, 0207 848 1448, 07827917829, firstname.lastname@example.org for all media enquiries including interviews with spokespeople. CASE STUDIES AVAILABLE.
Notes to Editors
- The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute was set up by Martin Lewis in spring 2016, registered charity number 1166493. It is lead by Polly Mackenzie and conducts research and develops policies for banks, lenders, regulators, the health service and government to help people with mental health problems protect themselves from financial difficulties and get out of debt.
- Money and Mental Health conducted an online survey of nearly 5,500 people with mental health problems in spring 2016. Respondents told us that:
- Three in ten (30%) of those who were asked to provide evidence of their mental health problem who had seen a healthcare professional in the last 24 months were charged by them to provide this evidence.
- 7 in 10 of those charged had incomes of less than £300 per week; 4 in 10 had incomes of less than £200 per week.
- Charging was evident right across the UK, including in each of the devolved nations.
- Money and Mental Health conducted a follow-up survey with 275 people who had been charged by their GP for the Debt and Mental Health Evidence form in the last 24 months. This survey revealed that charges for the form ranged from £10 to £150.
- Polly Mackenzie is the Director of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute. She was previously Director of Policy for the Deputy Prime Minister, working in Number 10 and the Cabinet Office, from 2010-2015.
- Martin Lewis OBE, Money Saving Expert, is an award-winning campaigning broadcaster, newspaper columnist and author. He founded MoneySavingExpert.com in 2003 for £100 and remains its Executive Chairman. It is now the UK’s biggest money site, with more than 14 million monthly users. Martin has his own prime-time ITV programme – The Martin Lewis Money Show – and is resident expert on This Morning, Good Morning Britain and BBC Radio 5 Live’s Consumer Panel, among others.