A top Northern Ireland GP has hit out at plans by Tory leadership contender Rishi Sunak to fine people £10 for missing GP and hospital appointments.
Speaking to the BBC’s Good Morning Ulster programme, Dr Frances O’Hagan said plans outlined by Mr Sunak if he is successful in the Tory leadership race aren’t the way to "fix the problems” in the NHS.
In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Sunak said the measure would be part of a “transformative” shake up of the NHS, and that it was “not right” that people were failing to show up for appointments in place of those that badly needed them.
Promising to bring back the “reforming zeal” of the early days of the coalition, he said the fines would be issued for those who missed appointments and didn't provide sufficient notice.
In his plans, patients would be given “the benefit of the doubt” first time around, but patientws would be fined £10 for subsequent missed appointments each time.
He also said the policy would be “temporary” as the NHS works to clear a huge Covid-19 backlog of around six million patients waiting for planned care.
Dr Frances O’Hagan is deputy chair of the British Medical Association’s GP committee in Northern Ireland.
"This isn’t the way to fix the problems in the NHS,” she said.
"In general practice, we have moved to a system where we phone people back on the day and usually book appointments on the day.”
She said there was very few missed appointments for this reason.
"If you want to fall out with your patients and not have a good relationship, charging them £10 is the way to go.
"If you want to know what’s going on with (missed appointments) you need to find out why patients aren’t coming as opposed to this punitive charge of £10.
"We need to look at why we have huge waiting lists on the NHS as opposed to this charge that really doesn’t look at fixing the waiting lists.”
Asked about a recent survey in England that suggested a drop in patient satisfaction with GP services, and the difficulty in getting appointments, she said the solution was to recruit more GPs.
“GPs are an endangered species, we have practices closing all around us,” she said.