The British Medical Association (BMA) has agreed that GP practices in England are to stop charging patients for completing the "Debt and Mental Health Evidence" forms as part of an agreement under the new five-year contract.

The form was brought in by advice organisations and credit firms to help people with mental health conditions to request easier repayment terms or reduced charges on debt. GP charges for completing these forms usually amounted to £30 to £50, although some were asked to pay more; in a few cases over £100.

The new agreement comes in response to Money and Mental Health’s "Stop the Charge" campaign, which was launched over two years ago. The organisation found that around one in three people with mental health problems who asked a GP to complete the debt and mental health form was charged for it and that this was preventing some from asking for help to resolve their debts, while others were going without food to pay for the charge.

The change, announced by the BMA, will come into effect when a new shortened version of the form is introduced that will be much easier for GPs to complete. The association said it was now up to the Government to put the new form in place and provide guidance to creditors, debt advisers and people with mental health problems about how to use it.

As part of the new agreement the membership bodies for banks and debt collectors, UK Finance and the Credit Services Association, have said they will only request the information from GPs as a last resort.

The BMA is also looking into whether information on the mental health of a patient could be supplied to lenders by other health and social care professionals or support workers.

In addition, the BMA said that, when the new system is functioning, if a situation arises where a more complex report is needed, the lender involved should ask the GP to complete the form and the lender, rather than the patient, should pay the appropriate fee.

It is also hoped that, when the new system is established in England, it will be reviewed and considered in the other three nations.

BMA General Practitioners Committee (GPC) Chair Dr Richard Vautrey 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. As GPs, we know that most patients want to be in charge of their own care.

"We want to maximise the use of self-certified declaration but where that’s not possible, we will explore how this can be done by an appropriate health and social care professional or support worker known to the patient. We want to reduce, as far as possible, the need for GP practice involvement. When involvement is necessary, using a newly designed much simplified form, practices will not charge patients to complete it."

Last reviewed 8 October 2019