Dame Vera Baird said it was "incredibly frustrating and disappointing" to find GPs were still charging. "This fee must be abolished – it’s as simple as that."
Responding to reports that GPs are charging domestic abuse victims up to £150 to confirm their injuries – against guidance issued by the British Medical Association (BMA) – the Victims’ Commissioner expressed frustration at the continuing practice and called for the fee to be abolished.
The issue emerged during the second reading of the Government’s domestic abuse bill in the House of Lords where Lord Kennedy, Labour spokesman on housing, revealed he planned to introduce an amendment banning the practice.
GPs can levy a fee for the service as it is classified as non-NHS private work that sits outside the core doctors’ contract. It first emerged as an issue in 2015 with the BMA subsequently acting about a year ago to advise GPs not to charge for such letters.
The Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales, Dame Vera Baird QC, said:
“It is incredibly frustrating and disappointing to hear some GP practices are continuing to charge domestic abuse victims to verify their claims – close to four years after I first called for the scrapping of this charge. I’m completely committed to ensuring victims of domestic abuse have the support they need and it is unacceptable they must pay to prove they have been a victim to be eligible for legal aid.
This fee must be abolished – it’s as simple as that.
We should be taking action to help victims, not demanding payment for a letter they need to access justice. The government needs to scrap this fee by bringing the service under NHS funding or – better still – scrap the need for the letter entirely.
We know that this can be done. During my time as PCC in Northumbria, I worked with councils and GP practices to pledge to waive the fee in 2017. This has made a real difference to victims. In 2021, I want to see this as the default position for all GP practices.
Those suffering domestic abuse are already incredibly vulnerable and it is vital that nothing stands in the way of their safety. Without legal aid some victims simply cannot afford court proceedings against their perpetrator. Help for victims of domestic abuse should never come at a price.”