The British Medical Association (BMA) has pledged 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 a five-year GP contract recently agreed with NHS England.
Under the contract, GPs in England will stop charging for completing the debt and mental health evidence form – 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 (CSA) 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 changed its code of practice to this effect.
In addition, the BMA said it 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.
Peter Wallwork, chief executive of the CSA, said: “We very much welcome this positive step by the BMA in helping consumers in financial difficulty, and the acknowledgment of the MMHPI of our industry’s involvement in finding a successful solution.
“It has long been the policy of CSA members to accept any form of relevant evidence – from prescriptions to hospital letters – if it is appropriate and proportionate and helps to better understand the customer’s position. It is unacceptable that someone with money and mental health problems should have to pay to evidence their condition, and while the debt and mental health evidence form was a highly effective tool, we welcome moves to stop the charge and simplify the form, particularly if it alleviates an already stressful situation for the customer.”
Martin Lewis, founder and chair of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, said: “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.”