Mental health charity, the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, today welcomed an expected commitment from Prime Minister Theresa May to review GP charges for paperwork needed by people with mental health and debt problems. The Prime Minister is due to make the announcement in a speech on mental health this morning. This marks a significant a victory for the Policy Institute and a coalition of fourteen charities that campaigned for these charges to be scrapped.
One in four people with a mental health problem is also in problem debt. Research by the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute has shown that mental health problems can make it harder both to earn and to manage money, and that problem debts can make mental health recovery take longer. Many banks recognise this and are willing to offer extra financial support, freezing interest payments or even writing off some debts when people are struggling. But to access this help, customers are often asked to provide the Debt and Mental Health Evidence Form, signed by a doctor. An investigation by Money and Mental Health found that one in three people who asked for the form were being charged – it’s a lottery.
Typical costs ranged from £20 to £50, often over a quarter of the person’s weekly income, with some being charged up to £150. This leaves many in far greater financial difficulty, or worse simply going without this help as they couldn’t pay their GP.
Responding to the expected announcement, Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis, Founder and Chair of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute said:
“After the financial services industry finally got its act together to start treating those with mental health issues more responsibly, it’s tragic that the block to getting support has come at the point of seeing a GP. This isn’t anyone’s fault, just the system never caught up, and the people suffering often don’t have a voice. I set up this charity to get problems like this sorted, and with the Prime Minister’s announcement today, I’m delighted it’s already starting to have a big impact.”
“Ending this charge is a sensible decision all round, we look forward to working with the Government and others to make it happen. And this is just the start of needed changes. Those with mental health problems are between three and six times more likely to be in problem debt, and resolving these debt problems could make them twice as likely to recover in NHS talking therapies. If there was a pill you could take that had such a profound effect, there isn’t a GP in the land who wouldn’t prescribe it. Joining up mental health treatment with financial support would save the NHS substantial amounts of money. Polly Mackenzie and the team at Money and Mental Health will continue to research and develop policy proposals on that basis.”
The campaign to stop the charge was backed by MPs and leading mental health and advice charities including Mind, Rethink and StepChange, as well as over 2,000 people who signed a joint letter to the UK Health Secretaries.
Johnny Mercer MP, who sits on the Advisory Board, said:
“I am delighted to see today that the Prime Minister, in her first big domestic policy speech, has chosen to review charging for the Debt and Mental Health Evidence form. This is as the result of a great campaign from Martin, the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute team and others.
“With such a strong link between mental health and problem debt, I think we have a lot more work to do in this area to root out flaws in the system and work out how we go about rectifying them. I am pleased to be working with Martin and his team looking at how we build further on the Prime Minister’s welcome announcement today.”
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- Campaigners deliver the joint letter to Jeremy Hunt: http://bit.ly/2iXRz75. Left to right:
- Martin Lewis, Founder and Chair of Money and Mental Health
- Norman Lamb MP, Member of the Money and Mental Health Advisory Board
- Polly Mackenzie, Director of Money and Mental Health
- Johnny Mercer MP, Member of the Money and Mental Health Advisory Board
- Paul Scates, Member of the Money and Mental Health Advisory Board who has personal experience of being charged for the form
- Luciana Berger MP, Member of the Money and Mental Health Advisory Board
Notes to Editors
- The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute was set up by Martin Lewis in spring 2016, registered charity number 1166493. It is lead by Polly Mackenzie and conducts research and develops policies for banks, lenders, regulators, the health service and government to help people with mental health problems protect themselves from financial difficulties and get out of debt.
- The Debt and Mental Health Evidence form is often required by creditors before they offer additional debt support to people with mental health problems. It is most commonly completed by a GP, although other health professionals can fill it in. As this isn’t an official NHS form the current rules do allow GPs to charge, just as they do for certification that a patient is fit to fly on holiday. The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute is calling on the UK Governments to make the form exempt from charges, just like a fit note for an employer or the forms that certify a patient has a health condition that makes them eligible for council tax reductions. Further background on the form here.
- Money and Mental Health conducted an online survey of nearly 5,500 people with mental health problems in spring 2016. Respondents told us that:
- Three in ten (30%) of those who were asked to provide evidence of their mental health problem who had seen a healthcare professional in the last 24 months were charged by them to provide this evidence.
- 7 in 10 of those charged had incomes of less than £300 per week; 4 in 10 had incomes of less than £200 per week.
- Charging was evident right across the UK, including in each of the devolved nations.
- Money and Mental Health conducted a follow-up survey with 275 people who had been charged by their GP for the Debt and Mental Health Evidence form in the last 24 months. This survey revealed that charges for the form ranged from £10 to £150.
- Reports this morning indicate that the Prime Minister will announce a review of the form: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-38548567
- Polly Mackenzie is the Director of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute. She was previously Director of Policy for the Deputy Prime Minister, working in Number 10 and the Cabinet Office, from 2010-2015.
Martin Lewis OBE, Money Saving Expert, founded and funds the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute. He is is an award-winning campaigning broadcaster, newspaper columnist and author. He founded MoneySavingExpert.com in 2003 for £100 and is still active as the website’s Executive Chair. It is now the UK’s biggest money site, with more than 14 million monthly users. Martin has his own prime-time ITV programme – The Martin Lewis Money Show – and is resident expert on This Morning, Good Morning Britain and BBC Radio 5 Live’s Consumer Panel, among others. Martin was appointed OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in June 2014.