Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP today called on the Scottish Government to work with doctors to ensure that indebted people suffering with mental ill health are not charged for medical notes.
A new survey by the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute found almost one in three people in Scotland who asked for a Debt and Mental Health Evidence Form were charged, resulting in people going without support or racking up more debt to pay their GP.
Creditors who receive these forms often offer more manageable payment terms, cancel charges or even write down some debts.
Campaigners are now calling on the Scottish Government to ensure that evidence of mental health conditions for creditors is included in the list of certificates which are free for patients in the new GP contract.
Commenting Mr Cole-Hamilton said:
“The last thing that people suffering from mental ill who are also struggling with debt need is to be presented with a bill to prove that they are unwell.
“Almost all those charged to secure a debt and mental health evidence form reported that their financial situation had exacerbated their illnesses. In many cases we are talking about people who are struggling on benefits or low incomes and while these charges may seem low, they could have had a serious impact on the ability of patients to support themselves.
“This problem is not limited to Scotland and we need to see action to eradicate these charges across the UK. But there are things that we can do here to support indebted people suffering from mental ill health. I would urge the Scottish Government to ensure that this is discussed with the Royal College of GPs and other stakeholders as quickly as possible.
“Scrapping these charges is a small change that could make a big difference to the lives of people suffering with mental ill health.”