NHS surgery will try to charge you for doctor’s letters, unwarned

Experienced today the surgery in South Queensferry trying to to this.

squeensferry_clinicYou go to see your GP about a medical enquiry he needs to write a letter about for you to show to a third party. There are lots of situations in which a public office might ask you to make such an enquiry, e.g. the council. When you go back to surgery later to collect the letter, reception tells you there should be a charge of £15 for it. Tells you it does not count as NHS work. You had been to your GP appointment in good faith as an ordinary NHS appointment. There is no publicised or displayed info saying otherwise.

In this case, nothing of this had been told to me at the appointment nor ever by the GP himself. The situation was even more irresponsible for it being left to word of mouth whether you were informed, and the receptionist herself having to ask doubtfully whether the the doctor had said it – and hence did not feel able to press the charge, so at least a small victory there. A frightened elderly patient without any self confidence might not be so lucky. But receptionist put in place a notice to expect charging for any future letters: and this interferes with something in mid stream. It may well not be the GP’s fault either, but done undercutting his work, for his good helpful letter concluded, “If you require any further information please do not hesitate to contact me” – those are not words consistent with any idea of charging the reader for acting on them.

NHS Lothian complaints department made known that GP surgeries are now working semi-independently under contract and there are no consistent NHS rules on what they can charge for. Not very widely known to vulnerably trappable patients is it? I have made a complaint about the boundaries in any case like this, and about any charging when you go to your GP for health info that another public office wants from you.

Maurice Frank
5 Jul 2011