As part of Treasury Department proposals to deal with the cost of living crisis, GPs could be tasked with prescribing money off the energy bills of their most vulnerable patients.
First reported by The sun On Saturday, patients would be referred to their GP to assess their eligibility for financial assistance.
GPs would have a duty to check whether their patient needed help with their bills, whether because they were ill, elderly or otherwise in need, before writing the ‘prescription’ The sun.
Patients would then receive cash from their local government or a voucher for gas and electricity, it said.
The sun reported that it will be up to the next prime minister to sign off on the plans so they don’t come into effect until a new leader is elected.
The measure is one option among proposals to deal with rising energy bills, which include cutting the energy price cap by around £400, it said.
The Treasury confirmed to Pulse that it was preparing “options” for the next government.
The BMA said the proposals for GPs to mandate energy bill discounts were “completely unacceptable” and “insane”.
BMA England GP Committee Vice-Chairman Dr. David Wrigley, said: “We totally reject any suggestion that GPs do this work. They have neither the time nor the skills to do the work of the welfare system.
“In these next few months, GPs already have to look to delivering the Covid and flu vaccination programs that will be needed to get the NHS through the winter, on top of their daily crushing workload and the huge Covid backlog that we now have see.”
He added: “At a time when GPs are already overwhelmed with the biggest staffing crisis and longest waiting lists of all time, this extra workload would be totally unacceptable.
“It is hard to believe that government ministers would see fit to suggest that GPs do this.”
dr Wrigley said the government had “not discussed” the proposals “in any way” with the BMA, adding that “publication of these types of proposals through the media is deeply unprofessional”.
Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the RCGP, said: “Measures must be taken to address this and minimize the impact of rising living costs on people’s health, which will have the greatest impact on our most vulnerable patients. But this cannot be left to GPs and our teams.’
He added: “Some larger practices will offer additional services, such as links to citizen advice services who can offer financial advice.
“But GPs and other members of our team are not qualified to judge whether or not people should receive additional financial assistance to help them cope with rising living costs.”
GPs reacted with dismay at news of the proposals, branding them “utter babble”.
said Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting that the Conservatives have “lost the conspiracy over the cost of living crisis and have no idea how much pressure is on the NHS”.
A Treasury spokesman said: “We know that rising prices are posing significant challenges for families. That’s why we’ve taken continuous action to help households by providing incremental support worth £37 billion throughout the year as the difficult winter is ahead.
“We are making the necessary preparations to ensure that a new government has options to provide additional support as soon as possible.”
They added that no major budgetary decisions will be made until the new prime minister is in office.
It comes as GPs fear an ‘apocalyptic’ winter as summer workloads rise to levels typical of the coldest months of the year.
And GP executives warned they had “serious concerns” about the financial and labor-intensive impact of the autumn’s Covid booster program, which begins next month.
Meanwhile, the RCGP warns that general medicine urgently needs support ahead of winter, including an immediate cut in red tape.