Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has backtracked on plans to hand out fines to people in England who miss NHS appointments.

The new Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “now is not the time” to go forward with the policy which would hand out £10 fines for every NHS appointment missed.

Mr Sunak first suggested the idea during his failed leadership campaign in the summer, and a Number 10 spokesman had said the Prime Minister “stands by the sentiment and is definitely committed to ensuring that we get the best value for taxpayers.”

York Press:

However, the British Medical Association (BMA) warned the idea would only hurt the poorest in the country, according to the Yorkshire Evening Post.

Philip Banfield, Chairman of the BMA, told the publication the plan would ““ultimately threaten the fundamental principle that the NHS delivers free care at the point of need for all”.

He added: “The BMA has always stood firmly against the idea of charging patients for missed appointments. While it is frustrating when patients do not attend, the reasons why this happens should be investigated rather than simply resorting to punishing them.

“Financially penalising patients inevitably impacts the poorest and most vulnerable in the community. This may discourage them from rebooking, exacerbating already worsening health inequalities and costing the NHS more.”

A spokesman for Mr Sunak added: “We have listened to GPs and NHS leaders and agreed now is not the time to take this policy forward."

NHS England reports that there are 15 million missed GP appointments in the country every year, meaning the plan could bring in around £150 million.

The health service in England also reports that around 307 million sessions with GPs, nurses, therapists and other staff are missed every year, and that one in 20 of them are missed without enough notice to invite other patients.