GP's are not employed by the NHS, they are self-employed and they have to cover their costs - staff, buildings, heating, lighting, etc - in the same way as any small business. The NHS pays the GP's for specific NHS work, but for non-NHS work, the fees charged by GPs contribute towards their costs.
What is covered by the NHS and what is not?
The Government’s contract with GPs covers medical services to NHS patients, including the provision of ongoing medical treatment, in recent years more and more organisations have been involving doctors in a whole range of non-medical work.
Examples of non-NHS services for which GPs can charge their own NHS patients:
- accident or sickness certificates for insurance purposes
- school fee and holiday insurance certificates
- reports for health clubs to certify that patients are fit to exercise
- Medicals for pre-employment, sports and driving requirements (HGV, PSV etc.)
- Passport signing
- Private sick notes
- Vaccination certificates
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 medical care of his or her patients. As most non- NHS work is not urgent we aim to complete this type of work within 10 working days (this may take longer if at the time of the requst your GP is on leave).
Often a patient may only require a signature from the GP. What is not considered is that when the GP signs a certificate or completes a report, it is a condition of remaining on the Medical Register that they only sign what they know to be true, which requires the GP to check the patient's medical record.
What can be done to avoid charges?
Not all documents need to signed by a GP. You could ask a person in a position of trust i.e. teacher they may be willing to sign a possport application form.
What will I be charged?
The BMA recommends that GPs tell patients in advance if they will be charged, and what the fee will be. It is up to individual practice to decide how much they will charge, but the BMA produces lists of suggested fees for the GPs to use as a guideline.
Fees must be paid in advance at the time of the request for the letter or form to be completed is made or when the appointment for a medical is booked.