Guide to private charges
Why do GPs charge fees? Your questions answered.
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 still exist in England and there are several other services for which fees are charged. In most cases, it is because the service is not covered by the NHS, e.g. medical reports for insurance companies, claim forms for referral for private care, letters and forms which require the doctor to review the patient's medical records, etc.
Surely the doctor is being paid anyway?
It is important to understand that GPs are not employed by the NHS. They are self-employed, and they must cover their costs - staff, buildings, heating, lighting etc - in the same way as any small business. The NHS pays the doctor for specific NHS work, but for non-NHS work the fee must cover the doctor's costs and time to complete it.
What is covered by the NHS and what is not?
The Government's contract with GPs covers general medical services to NHS patients. In recent years, more and more organisations have been involving Primary Care Doctors in a whole range of non-medical work.
Examples of non-NHS services for which Ashford Medical Partnership charge their NHS patients are:
⦁ To whom it may concern letters
⦁ Certain travel vaccinations
⦁ Private medical insurance reports
⦁ Holiday cancellation claim forms
⦁ Referral for private care forms
Examples of non-NHS services for which Ashford Medical Partnership charge other institutions are:
⦁ Medical reports for an insurance company
⦁ Some reports for the DWP/Benefits Agency
⦁ Examinations of local authority employees
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 routine medical care of his/her patients. GPs have a very heavy workload and further private paperwork takes up an increasing amount of their time.
I only need the doctor's signature!
When clinicians sign a certificate or complete a report, it is a condition of remaining on the Medical Register that they only sign what they know to be true. Therefore, in order to complete even the simplest of forms, the doctor needs to check the patient's medical record. Carelessness or an inaccurate report can have serious consequences for the doctor, with the General Medical Council or even the Police. The charge reflects either the time required to check information and/or the degree of responsibility in signing the document. If a form is required urgently (e.g. within 48 hours) then this will increase the charge. Our team of Medical Secretaries will also need to enter this on a log of completed work in your name.
What will I be charged?
The BMA recommends that GPs tell patients in advance if they will be charged, and how much. It is up to the individual practice to decide how much to charge, but the BMA produces lists of suggested fees for the doctors to use as a guideline. These fees can be found on the leaflet of charges inserted in this booklet.
Charges at Ashford Medical Partnership
You will find a list of charges displayed at each of our surgery sites and they are included on the insert to this booklet. In the past, we have completed reports and forms before payment has been made but have sadly found there to be many occasions when the doctor has given up the time to do the work, but the fee has not been forthcoming. Therefore, we respectfully ask that the fee must be paid in advance at the time the request for the letter or form to be completed is made or when the appointment for a medical is booked. We apologise, but we cannot make exceptions.
What can be done to avoid charges?
Not all documents need to be signed by a doctor. For example, you could ask another person in a position of trust, who may be willing to sign a document free of charge. Possibly a teacher, an accountant, etc. including those who are retired.
Important items of note
- Please note that we do not sign passport applications.
- Please DO NOT expect your GP to process forms overnight. Urgent requests may mean that a doctor must make special arrangements to process the form quickly and this will cost more. You will be advised of the costs in advance, but this is purely at the GPs discretion and availability.
- Please direct any queries to the Medical Secretaries and not to your GP direct.
When requesting a piece of private work to be completed, you will be issued with a receipt of acknowledgement from our Medical Work Administrator. PLEASE ALLOW AT LEAST 21 WORKING DAYS TURNAROUND. One of our team members will telephone you when the work is completed and ready to be released by the GP.