The practice receives numerous requests from patients and third parties (such as insurance companies and employers) to provide documents such as medical reports, completion of forms and various letters expressing medical opinion or information from the medical records.
The NHS provides most health care to most people free of charge, but there are exceptions to this. There are several services for which fees are chargeable. Alternatively, GPs can decide not to undertake non-NHS services. If you would like further information, the link below provides further information about why GPs charge fees for certain requests. https://www.bma.org.uk/advice/employment/fees/why-gps-charge-fees
Why isn’t my medical report, form or letter request free from my GP?
The Government’s contract with GPs covers medical services to NHS patients but not non-NHS work. It is important to understand that many 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.
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 ensure that information provided to them is true and accurate.
Examples of non-NHS services for which GPs can charge their own NHS patients are:
· accident/sickness certificates for insurance claims
· school fee and holiday insurance certificates
· reports for health clubs to certify that patients are fit to exercise
· private prescriptions for travel purposes
· fitness to fly letters
Examples of non-NHS services for which GPs can charge other institutions are:
· life assurance and income protection reports for insurance companies
· medical reports for local authorities in connection with adoption and fostering
Do GPs have to do non-NHS work for their patients?
With certain limited exceptions, for example a GP confirming that a patient is not fit for jury service, GPs do not have to carry out non-NHS work on behalf of their patients. At Pathfields, we endeavour to undertake non-NHS work for our patients. However, due to a high demand for these services and due to the pressure on the NHS workloads, there can be a significant wait for non-NHS work to be
completed. Waiting times can vary depending on GP availability and demand on the service. We will advise you at the time of your request of the likely waiting time.
Is it true that the BMA sets fees for non-NHS work?
The British Medical Association (BMA) suggest fees that GPs may charge their patients for non-NHS work (i.e. work not covered under their contract with the NHS) in order to help GPs set their own professional fees. However, the fees suggested by them are intended for guidance only; they are not recommendations and the GP is not obliged to charge the rates they suggest. Due to the increased pressures on GPs and the increased demand for non-NHS work, the BMA now also advises GPs to consider charging an hourly rate and to charge on a time-taken basis. If a request is made which involves significant GP input, we may quote a fee dependent on the time that the report/form/letter will take the GP to prepare.
Why does it sometimes take my GP a long time to complete my form?
Time spent completing forms and preparing reports takes the GP away from the medical care of his or her patients. Most GPs have a very heavy workload and paperwork takes up an increasing amount of their time. We have specifically allocated time for a GP to undertake non-NHS work but sometimes, when the service is busy or understaffed, this time has to be re-allocated to undertake NHS services. Please therefore do not expect your request to be undertaken quickly, even if you are under a short time frame. We aim to assist if we can, but we are not obliged to expediate a request, particularly if it means that patient requests that have already been waiting will take even longer.
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 (the doctors’ regulatory body) or even the Police.
If you are a new patient, we may not have your medical records so the doctor must wait for these before completing the form.
What will I be charged?
It is recommended that GPs tell patients in advance if they will be charged, and what the fee will be. It is up to individual doctors to decide how much they will charge. The surgery has a list of fees available on request.
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. Read the information that comes with these types of forms carefully before requesting your GP to complete them.If you have several forms requiring completion, present them all at once to avoid duplication of work.If you are presented with a short time frame for a report or form to be completed by a GP, please speak to the person/company requesting the document and explain that a GP may take several weeks to complete the report. You may be able to get an extension to the time frame.If you require a letter or form for a holiday/travel, please make your request as far in advance as possible to avoid disappointment. We may be unable to undertake your request before you travel. Please do not book travel which is dependent on a GP preparing a document/signing a form without first checking the waiting time to complete the work.
Finally, please be respectful to the staff at the Practice. We will try to assist you with your request but there are occasions where we receive abuse when advising patients of charges or waiting times. Pathfields adopts a zero-tolerance policy with regards to abuse towards members of staff.