BMA commits to ending patient charges for mental health debt forms, following two year campaign by Money and Mental Health charity
21 February 2019
The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute has today welcomed a commitment from the British Medical Association (BMA) that GPs will stop charging for the form people with mental health problems need to get debt support.
The commitment by the BMA – the professional body for all UK doctors – is part of the new Five Year GP contract recently agreed with NHS England. It means that:
- GPs in England will stop charging for completing the Debt and Mental Health Evidence form (1) – paperwork that people with mental health and debt problems can be asked to provide to creditors in order to receive additional support.
- The BMA’s commitment is made to be enacted when an agreed new shortened and simplified version of form is introduced to make it easier and quicker for GPs to complete.
- UK Finance and the Credit Services Association – the membership bodies for banking and finance and debt collectors respectively – will continue to expect their members to use any suitable evidence as they currently do and only request the form as a last resort. In May 2018 the CSA went as far as to proactively change its Code of Practice to this effect.
- In addition, the BMA will continue to work with creditors and charities to support people to provide evidence of their mental health problems from their own medical records, which will be available online from April 2019.
There has been cross sector agreement to introduce a new shortened form to make this process easier – with organisations including the Money Advice Liaison Group (which oversees the form), the BMA, Royal College of Psychiatrists, debt advice charities, UK Finance and the Credit Services Association all signalling they are in favour of this process. The government now just needs to coordinate putting that form in place, and to provide guidance to creditors, debt advisers and people with mental health problems about how to use it.
Today’s announcement from the BMA comes in response to Money and Mental Health’s ‘Stop the Charge’ campaign, which was launched over two years ago following research by the charity which showed that:
- Around one in three people with mental health problems who asked a GP to complete the Debt and Mental Health Evidence form were charged for it.
- Charges usually amounted to £30-£50, but some people were asked to pay more in a few cases over £100.
- The charge is preventing some people from getting help to resolve their debts, while others are going without essentials such as food or heating in order to pay the charge.
In January 2017, the Prime Minister Theresa May responded to Money and Mental Health’s campaign by promising to address what she called the “unfair practice” of people with mental health problems being charged for this form, and launching a formal review to address this issue.
Following this commitment, the government and organisations from across the health, debt and financial sectors set up a working group to make progress on ending the charge (2).
Recognising the increasing workload pressures GPs face, the working group committed to taking steps to reduce both the length of the form, and the demand for GPs to complete it.
The BMA’s pledge announced today reflects its support for these steps, and its commitment to helping people with mental health problems to access debt support without charge.
Martin Lewis, Founder and Chair of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, said: “We’re over the moon that the BMA has finally agreed to stop people with mental health and debt problems being charged for the paperwork they need to get help. These charges can play havoc with people’s financial and mental wellbeing, often when they are at their lowest ebb – leaving many avoiding asking for the help they desperately need.
“Today’s announcement puts us in touching distance of ending this injustice. We have a momentous agreement from banks, doctors and debt collectors, who are all ready to play their part. Now the agreement is there, we just need the government to lead the coordination of all the groups involved to produce the new paper work. Then we will be able to stop these charges once and for all.”
Dr Richard Vautrey, Chair of the BMA GP Committee in England, said: “The BMA, Money and Mental Health, NHS England and the Government have a shared concern about the impact that financial debt has on the mental health of many people. To that end we want a solution that, where possible, empowers patients to provide their own evidence of their condition. As GPs, we know that most patients want to be in charge of their own care.”
“We want to maximise the use of self-certified declaration but where that’s not possible, we will explore how this can be done by an appropriate health and social care professional or support worker known to the patient. We want to reduce, as far as possible, the need for GP practice involvement. When involvement is necessary, using a newly designed much simplified form, practices will not charge patients to complete it.
“There may be times when a more complex health report is required by a bank or other lender, and in those rare circumstances, those reports need to be sought directly from the practice by a lender and the lender would pay an appropriate fee, not the patient.”
For media enquiries, including interviews with spokespeople, please contact:
Brian Semple, Head of External Affairs at Money and Mental Health, on 07595 439 638 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Helen Robinson-Gordon, Head of Media and News Relations for BMA, on 020 7383 6188 / 07825 645463 or email@example.com
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Notes to Editors
- The Debt and Mental Health Evidence form is often required by creditors before they offer additional debt support to people with mental health problems. It is most commonly completed by a GP, although other health professionals can fill it in. 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.
- The working group consisted of the BMA, Royal College of Psychiatrists, Money Advice Liaison Group, UK Finance, Credit Services Association, Department of Health, Money Advice Trust and the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute
- The BMA is also keen on the use of alternative evidence by people with mental health conditions, or by their carers families with their consent, when seeking debt relief.
- Money and Mental Health will continue to campaign to end charges for the Debt and Mental Health Evidence form in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (which are not covered by the GP contract).
About Money and Mental Health Policy Institute
- The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute was set up by Martin Lewis in spring 2016, registered charity number 1166493.
- It conducts research and develops policies for essential services firms, regulators, the health service and government to help people with mental health problems protect themselves from financial difficulties and get out of debt.
- 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 full-time Editor-in-Chief. 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.
About the BMA:
The BMA is a trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.