FAQs regarding private and professional fees for non-NHS work
Below are a collection of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) regarding non-NHS work fees (the most updated list of charges can be found at the surgery).
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. Some of the charge is made to cover some of the cost of treatment, for example, dental fees. In other cases it is because the service is not covered by the NHS, for example providing medical examinations for employment or producing medical reports for insurance companies.
Surely the doctor is being paid anyway?
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. The NHS covers these costs for NHS work, but for non-NHS work the fees charged by GPs contribute towards their costs.
What is covered by the NHS and what is not?
The Government’s contract with GPs covers medical services to NHS patients, including the provision of ongoing medical treatment. In recent years, however, 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.
Do GPs have to do non-NHS work for their patients?
With certain limited exceptions, for example a GP confirming that one of their patients is not fit for travel, GPs do not have to carry out non-NHS work on behalf of their patients. Whilst GPs always attempt to assist their patients with the completion of forms, for example for insurance purposes, they are not required to do such non-NHS work.
Is it true that the BMA sets fees for non-NHS work?
The BMA suggests fees that GPs mat 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 the BMS are intended for guidance only; they are not recommendations and a GP is not obliged to charge the rates they suggest.
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, so many GPs find they have to take paperwork home at night and at weekends.
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 therefore the doctor may 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 doctor’s regulatory body) or even the police.
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. Please give the doctors as much time as possible to complete any paperwork.