GPs ‘charge abused £150 to prove injuries’: Domestic violence victims are hit with bill from their doctor for a letter confirming they have been attacked
Victims of domestic violence are being charged more than £150 by GPs for a letter confirming their injuries.
The document is often needed to access legal aid and the Government is facing criticism for failing to outlaw the practice.
Demanding fees for the letter is allowed by the medical authorities as the service does not fall under doctors’ NHS contracts.
The government is facing calls to outlaw the £150 letter to victims of domestic abuse
In a House of Lords debate on the Domestic Abuse Bill, opposition spokesman Baroness Wilcox of Newport said: ‘The Government has expressed concern but has failed to act.’
Home Office minister Baroness Williams of Trafford said: ‘While GPs can levy a fee for this service, due to it being classified as private work that sits outside the core GP contract, the BMA has now advised GPs not to charge for such letters.’
She said the Government had made it easier for victims to obtain legal aid – which is only available when a person can prove they are a victim of domestic violence. For example, they may require legal representation to remain in the family home after splitting from a violent partner.
Baroness Williams of Trafford says the government is working with the GPs Committee on the issue
The BMA said it does not recommend that practices charge a fee but ‘ultimately… this is at the individual practice’s discretion’.
Baroness Williams added: ‘We continue to work with the GPs Committee to improve the process for GPs and victims in relation to evidence of domestic abuse.’
GPs who charge for the service to abuse victims have been criticised by campaigners, although a majority of family doctors do not charge a fee.
The BMA statement said the fee should be agreed in advance.
Victims of domestic abuse or violence may be entitled to legal aid if they cannot afford to pay their legal costs.
For example, they may require legal representation to remain in the family home after splitting from a violent partner.
Surjit Verdi, a partner at Palmers Solicitors in Basildon, Essex, said: ‘Living with domestic violence can cause physical and emotional harm not only to the individual but also children, and therefore it is vital that anyone experiencing such behaviour is able to seek protection.
‘Victims should not face barriers to access legal support.’