MALG is delighted with the news today that the BMA – the professional body for all UK doctors – has agreed as part of the new Five Year GP contract with NHS England that:
- 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 and debt collectors in order to receive additional support.
- A new shortened and simplified version of form will be introduced, to make it easier and quicker for GPs to complete.
- UK Finance and the Credit Services Association – the membership bodies for UK banks and debt collectors respectively – have also agreed to advise firms to only request the form as a last resort.
- The BMA 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.
The Money Advice Liaison Group (MALG) which oversees the form, welcomes the agreement: “We are delighted that the one third of people with mental health problems who have asked a GP to complete the Debt and Mental Health Evidence form and were charged, sometimes as much as £100 for it, will no longer have to pay”.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists, Te Debt and Mental Health Policy Institute, debt advice charities, UK Finance and the Credit Services Association have all signalled they are in favour of this process.
Martin Lewis, Founder and Chair of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, said:
“We’re over the moon that the BMA has finally agreed to stop people with mental health and debt problems being charged for the paperwork they need to get help. These charges can play havoc with people’s financial and mental wellbeing”
Dr Richard Vautrey, Chair of the BMA GP Committee in England said,
“The BMA, Money and Mental Health, NHS England and the Government have a shared concern about the impact that financial debt has on the mental health of many people. To that end we want a solution that, where possible, empowers patients to provide their own evidence of their condition.”
The government now needs to coordinate the new shorter form, and to provide guidance to creditors, debt advisers and people with mental health problems about how to use it.
The Money and Mental Health Institute’s ‘Stop the Charge’ campaign , which was launched over two years ago followed research by the charity which showed that:
- Around one in three people with mental health problems who asked a GP to complete the Debt and Mental Health Evidence form were charged for it.
- Charges usually amounted to £30-£50, but some people were asked to pay more in a few cases over £100.
- The charge is preventing some people from getting help to resolve their debts, while others are going without essentials such as food or heating in order to pay the charge.
In January 2017, the Prime Minister Theresa May responded to a campaign by The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute promising to address what she called the “unfair practice” of people with mental health problems being charged for this form, and launching a formal review to address this issue.
Following the PM’s intervention the government and organisations from across the health, debt and financial sectors set up a working group to make progress on ending the charge.
Recognising the increasing workload pressures GPs face, the working group committed to taking steps to reduce both the length of the form, and the demand for GPs to complete it.