Calls are being made for Jeremy Hunt to ban GPs from charging domestic violence victims up to £175 for a medical letter as proof.
A letter signed by 16 Police and Crime Commissioners informs Jeremy Hunt, Health Secretary, that some GPs are charging fees for letters that allows victims of domestic violence to access legal aid.
Samantha Lee, head of Family law here at Swain & Co says, “We back a complete scrap of the need for those suffering from domestic violence having to prove that they are victims through a medical letter. But, since the government changed the rules on access to legal aid, those victims should not have to pay and be responsible for chasing a medical letter from their GP. Our clients are lucky in that most GPs local to us do not charge for this evidence. In other areas GPs are not so helpful. It creates another potential barrier in front of already vulnerable people when they are trying to seek help.”
Calls are being made for the government to stop GPs charging the victims directly by bringing the service under NHS funding.
Not all GPs are charging for this letter, but campaigners say that some GPs have required fees of up to £175. These victims could have suffered from being raped, beaten or mentally abused at the hands of their partner or family member.
The letter from the Police and Crime Commissioners also urges the Justice Secretary to consider scrapping the requirement for the GP letter completely, saying, “It should not be a privilege for victims of domestic abuse to gain legal aid. There should be no further burden on victims to chase a letter to verify their claim.”
Without access to legal aid, many people may not come forward when they are suffering from domestic abuse, and of those that have the courage to speak out, may not choose to disclose it to their GP. A letter from a GP is only one of the forms of evidence required by the Legal Aid Agency to demonstrate a history of domestic abuse. If you or anyone you know has any query in this regard we are here to help.