Has Rishi Sunak scrapped plans for £10 fines for missing GP appointments? No 10 says it’s ‘not the right time’

The now Prime Minister first proposed the plan during his leadership contest with Liz Truss during summer

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has scrapped a Tory leadership campaign pledge to fine patients in England £10 if they miss GP or hospital appointments.

The Prime Minister’s spokeswoman said on Thursday (28 October) that Sunak “stands by the sentiment” of the pledge he made during the summer Tory leadership contest. However, on Friday (28 October), the spokeswoman said that, after “listening to GPs”, the government decided it was “not the right time” for the policy.

But what did the new Prime Minister say about fines? Here’s what you need to know.

What did Rishi Sunak say about GP appointment fines?

Over the summer, Sunak, who was then battling Liz Truss for the Tory leadership, proposed the plan as his flagship health policy. He said he would introduce a temporary £10 charge for patients who failed to turn up for an NHS appointment without providing sufficient notice.

Rishi Sunak may go ahead with plans to fine people £10 for missing doctors appointments, Downing Street has said

Sunak’s campaign said the annual cost of missed appointments was £216 million, which is enough to pay the annual salaries of 2,325 full-time GPs.

Although Sunak acknowledged the proposal was controversial, he said radical action was needed to stop doctors’ time being wasted by people not showing up to appointments. He said it would remain in place until the NHS backlog caused by the pandemic was “reduced to manageable levels”.

Under the plan, people would have been “given the benefit of the doubt” the first time they missed an appointment, but would then face fines after that.

In his first speech outside No 10 since becoming Prime Minister, Sunak pledged “a stronger” health service and vowed to bear down on waiting times.

Why would the fines have been controversial?

Many in the healthcare system strongly opposed Sunak’s GP charging idea as most of those who miss appointments are among the poorest, and from minority ethnic backgrounds and several have complex needs.

The British Medical Association said finding patients would be counterproductive because it would deter them from re-booking, and at a time when the cost of living crisis means some people this winter will face a choice between heating and eating, £10 fines could have a big impact.

The Royal College of GPs pointed out that the plan “would fundamentally change the principle that the NHS is free at the point of use” and would also add “another layer of bureaucracy to a GP service already drowning in red tape”.