PATIENTS up and down the country are being slapped with fees of up to £120 when they want a sick note, letter or report from the doctor.
It’s the latest example of a postcode lottery, which sees households penalised depending on where they live.
The Sun’s research into 20 randomly picked NHS doctors’ surgeries around England found that households are being charged for everything from a sick note explaining why they’re not at work to travel letters confirming they’re fit for overseas trips.
How much do doctors charge?
Sick notes range in price from £10 at a surgery in Kentish Town in London to four times the price at £40 in a Coventry and Cross Hills in Yorkshire practice.
Travel letters were even more, ranging from £15 in Kentish Town and Wood Green in London to £50 in Coventry and Petersfield.
But these weren’t the only services doctors are charging for, with letters to show your travel insurer when you’re too ill to go make a trip ranging from £15 in Kentish Town to £60 in Deal, Kent.
While a private letter, which can be used to show you can’t participate in a certain task, such as sports at your local gym for example, cost from £15.50 in Reading to £70 in Deal.
And if you’re an older person who still wants to drive and needs a doctor to confirm you’re still fit to do so, then prices rocket even more.
Here, we found doctors charging £60 in Market Drayton in Shropshire, while a practice in South Shields in Tyne and Wear charged double at £120.
We’ve listed these fees in the table above but we also found the same surgeries charging between £11 and £35 for vaccination certificates and between £40 and £90 if you have a medical exemption, which means you can’t wear a seatbelt.
If you need a witness for a driving licence photo this costs between £20 and £40, while a medical examination needed to drive a HGV, LGV or taxi cost between £80 and £130.
Martyn James, a consumer expert at complaints website Resolver said: “The NHS is one of the things that makes our country great.
“But that’s why it’s so shocking that these fees for doctors letters are hitting us with private healthcare prices.
“Play fair and set a flat rate for all, so our postcodes don’t penalise us for vital services like a traditional doctors note.”
Are GPs allowed to charge NHS patients?
This may come as a shock to patients of NHS practices, but trade body the British Medical Association (BMA) explains that NHS GPs can charge NHS patients for work that’s considered to be a non-NHS service.
And GPs can even refuse to do this work.
How can I complain about doctors' fees?
FIRST of all be aware that doctors are allowed to charge fees for certain services – and that includes to NHS patients.
But if you’re unhappy with the fee charged or perhaps you weren’t told in advance that you would be charged then you can complain to the GP practice or hospital involved.
Check with the pratice involved for its complaint procedure and follow this.
You should make your complaint within 12 months of the incident.
If you need help making a complaint your local Healthwatch can help you find free, independent NHS complaints advocacy services in your area.
If you don’t get the response you were hoping for from your surgery then complaints can be taken to your local clinicial commissioning group or to the Health Ombudsman.
But the problem is that while the BMA recommends the price of some fees, it’s ultimately down to the practice to choose, which can lead to this postcode lottery.
A BMA spokesperson, however, doesn’t believe our research is representative of the country as it only covers 20 of the 6,910 GP practices in England.
They added: “GPs are self-employed and they have to cover their costs in the same way as any small business.
“The NHS covers costs only for NHS work, so GPs have to charge fees to cover their time and cost of non-NHS work.
“Due to competition regulations, it is not possible for GPs to agree to set many types of fees.
“While the BMA provides limited guidance about what they may wish to consider charging for some non-contractual work, practices are not obliged to follow this and are free to set their fees as they see appropriate.”
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HEALTH and beauty retailer Superdrug is giving all NHS staff 10 per cent off their shopping when they buy anything in store.
The discounts will be available from now until December 31 – so you’ll be able to use it through the Christmas period too.
The discount applies to all ranges across the store including perfume, healthcare and make up.
For example, the offer brings down the price of Marc Jacobs Daisy Dream Eau de Toilette 50ml down to £51.30 or £1.60 off a NYX Professional Eyeshadow Palette.
To get the discount, all you’ll need to do is show a valid NHS staff ID to the person at the checkout who will apply the money off your bill.
You’ll also need to be signed up to their Health & Beauty loyalty scheme.
What you need to know before signing up to any reward scheme
THERE are thousands of different loyalty schemes and reward cards available – so you need to make sure you know what you're signing up for
By signing up for a loyalty card, a retailer will get a lot of information about you and your shopping habits. The data might be shared within its group of companies to target you with offers and advertising.
If a firm goes bust, you will lose your points, which have no cash value. Hoarding points also means you risk losing them if a retailer or restaurant shuts your account after a long period of inaction.
Read the terms and conditions carefullly some retailers and restaurant will have expiration dates on certain offers (for example you might have limited amount of time to spend your extra points).
Don’t choose where to shop or where to eat based on a store’s loyalty scheme. If there is a particular item you want, shop around rather than head straight for the retailer where you have a loyalty card. In a restaurant check some of the special deals or menus – they might be better value than the loyalty scheme.
Beware of spending more simply because you have a loyalty card and don’t buy something just for any bonus points you may earn.
If you don’t already have one of the cards you can sign up for free here.
You will need to provide basic information such as your full name, age, address and contact details.
Remember, by signing up to the scheme you are agreeing to share a lot of information with the retailer including your spending habits.
The discount isn’t available online so you’ll have to head into one of Superdrugs 800 branches – you can find your nearest one here.
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Signs that should set the alarm bells ringing include:
Unexpected contact – while you may be on your guard for cold callers, you now need to be alert to contact out of the blue from all sorts of online sources, such as email or social media. The same applies to contact you may get through the post, via word of mouth, or even in person at a seminar or exhibition.
Time pressure – beware if someone offers you a bonus or discount if you invest before a set date or says the opportunity is only available for a short period.
Social proof – keep an eye out for fake reviews and claims that other clients have invested, or want in on the deal.
Unrealistic returns – watch out for fraudsters promising tempting returns that sound too good to be true, such as much better interest rates than elsewhere.
False authority – don’t get tricked by convincing literature and websites, or investments which claim to be regulated. Also be wary of someone speaking with authority on investment products.
Flattery – be on your guard if someone tries to build a friendship with you. They may be trying to lull you into a false sense of security.
It told her the company was registered but as it was based outside of the UK it wouldn’t be covered by the UK’s Financial Services Compensation Scheme or by the Financial Ombudsman Service.
So they recommended Mayra double check with the Austrian authorities, which is where the firm was based.
Mayra called and emailed the Austrian financial authorities but didn’t hear back, so she decided to go ahead.
She initially invested £7,000, and then on seeing that her investment was going up in value she added £6,000 more – her entire life savings.
But then in August, the firm stopped providing updates on her cash. Mayra called and called but no-one answered.
She went back to the FCA website only to find the company had been added to its scams list with a warning saying a fake firm had used the details of a real company to look legitimate.
‘I worked hard to save but it’s been taken away from me’
“I started panicking then,” Mayra said. “It’s all my savings, it’s everything. I worked hard to save so I could invest in my future, but it was taken away from me.”
Mayra has since complained to both her bank – HSBC, and to the FCA, but neither will pay her money back.
Even the Complaints Commissioner, which looked into her case, ruled that the FCA should repay half the money.
It told Mayra: “The FCA register entry for this firm was seriously inaccurate. If it [the company] had been deregistered in 2006, you might not have lost your investment in the way you did.
“This is not the first time I have dealt with a complaint about the Register showing inaccurate or misleading information.
“While I do not consider that the FCA should be held responsible for the totality of your loss, in my preliminary report I recommended that it should make an ex gratia payment to you of 50 per cent of your loss.”
The FCA refused to comment but has admitted that it’s launched a review of its Register – although it couldn’t give a timescale on when it expects this work to conclude.
On Mayra’s case, the FCA would only reiterate what it told the Complaints Commissioner: “In our view, the direct cause of the complainant’s loss was her own actions and it would not therefore be appropriate for the FCA to make a substantial compensatory payment to the complainant.”
‘These big companies play with people’s lives’
The scam has left Mayra feeling worried about the future and having to put her plans on hold. She said: “I feel like I’m the victim here and no-one wants to help.
“I’m a small fish in the pond but these big companies play with people’s lives.
“Imagine if this had happened while I was still saving a deposit for the flat?
“Luckily, I got my flat a year earlier but this cash was meant to cover any emergencies and to refurbish my flat and to pay for driving lessons.
“Now I’m just worried – I’ve still got a mortgage to pay.”
What to do if you think you’ve been scammed
HERE'S what to do if you think you've been stung by a bank transfer scam:
Contact your bank or card provider immediately to notify them of the fraud – urgency is needed so your bank can try and trace the money and prevent any further attempts to steal your cash.
Notify crime reporting agency Action Fraud online or by calling 0300 123 2040. If Action Fraud is able to look into your case, it will provide updates on its investigation. But even simply reporting fraud may help police as part of a wider investigation.
Monitor your credit report for suspcious transactions or credit requests as fraudsters may try their luck again.
If you’re struggling to cope with being a victim of crime, contact charity Victim Support. You can do this online or by calling 0808 1689 111.
Mayra’s bank, HSBC, says the first payment transferred from her account was flagged to Mayra by its fraud team but she authorised the payment.
A HSBC UK spokesperson said: “We are sorry that Ms. Story has fallen victim to fraudsters, and understand this is a deeply distressing situation.
“We employ a wide range of methods to detect and deter fraud, and are making significant investments to protect our customers from financial crime.
“We also work with the authorities and alongside others in the industry to identify and address the ever-changing techniques used by fraudsters.”
NatWest – one of the banks that received the cash refused to comment, only saying: “Where accounts are suspected as being involved in fraudulent activity, they are promptly investigated.
“Where sufficient evidence is found to confirm this, the account is immediately frozen with remaining funds ring-fenced.
“We are unable to discuss specific details related to this case due to data protection legislation.”
Prepay, which was the other receiving bank didn’t respond to The Sun’s request for comment.
Mayra has since taken her case to the Financial Ombudsman Service, which she’s now waiting for a decision from.
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IT is not just the bride and groom who can feel the stress of a wedding.
Being a guest can take its toll — and cost a packet, too. A survey by One4All gift cards shows the average person spends around £391 on attending their mates’ nuptials.
But I think I can trim the cost of your wedding trip . . .
DRESSING UP: Head to the clearance section on next.co.uk to find a Lipsy dress. I like the lace blue number, currently down to £38 from £85. For men, get the navy Marzotto suit for £86, instead of £199.
SAVING: up to £113 on the suit
ROAD TRIP: Most of us will end up driving to the venue — and that can cost big in fuel. Plan your route around the cheapest petrol stations (see petrolprices.com) and take advantage of Tesco’s 10p off per litre of fuel (until August 25) when you spend £60 or more in store.
If you have to book the train and have missed the best advance fares, check the individual operator websites for discounts or opportunities to collect loyalty points. South Western Railway allows you to collect Nectar points.
SAVING: 10p per litre of fuel
BED DOWN: Save up to 20 per cent on rooms at Jurys Inn hotels until March 21, 2020. You can get a Friday night stay in Aberdeen for £60 per night.
Another idea is to make the most of our Sun Hols From £9.50. Pick a park near the wedding venue and nab yourself a bargain break. There’s another chance to collect from Saturday.
SAVING: 20 per cent off rooms
GIVE A LITTLE: According to wedding specialist hitched.co.uk, the average price of a present is £50-£75.
But don’t feel the pressure to spend what you can’t afford. A well put-together box or hamper made up of luxury Aldi jams and chocs or Lidl wine can be a lovely gift — and you can do that for around £10.
Gettingpersonal.co.uk has personalised pint glasses and mugs for around £9.99, but Card Factory wins. Get a pair of Mr and Mrs mugs for £5.99.
SAVING: £4 at Card Factory
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ALDI’S big baby-and-toddler event starts online TODAY. Get a hamper for newborns – including a blanket, book, bibs, sleepsuits and two soothers in a wicker basket – for just £39.99.
BUY Iceland’s Easy Tiger Lily & Lotus flower laundry powder, £6 for 100 washes, not Surf, £8 for 80 washes at Tesco.
Reader’s saving tip
LINDA SHEPHERD of Sawbridgeworth, Herts, says: “Add a few drops of dishwasher rinse-aid to water when washing windows and it will leave them sparkling. It’s cheaper than a window cleaner!”
Send your hints to sunsavers.co.uk/tips and you’ll get 28 codes worth £5 if yours is published. Please include your name and town.
TREAT yourself to Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. The 500ml tubs are now just £2.75, down from £4 at Sainsbury’s.
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My Sun Savers fiver
CHINTU SHAH of Rugby, Warks, says: “I cashed out my Sun Savers Fivers and am putting the money towards my son’s new school uniform.”
Send your Savers fiver stories to sunsavers.co.uk/fivers and you’ll get 28 codes worth £5 if yours is published. Please include your name and town.
Play now to win £50,000 on the Sun Savers Raffle
JOIN thousands of readers taking part in the new Sun Savers Raffle.
Every Sun Savers code you enter will earn you a ticket for our £50k monthly Raffle. And for every ten tickets you collect in a calendar month, you get a GOLDEN TICKET for our £80k Raffle, which takes place every three months, with the first one at the end of June.
There is no limit to how many tickets you can collect. So the more you enter, the better your chances.
To take part go to sunsavers.co.uk or open the Sun Savers app. Then opt in to each month’s Raffle by clicking “Yes!” when prompted and start collecting the Sun Savers codes printed daily in the paper.
Every time you scan or enter a code into Sun Savers, you get a Raffle ticket in the £50k Raffle.
Not yet a Sun Savers member? Just go to sunsavers.co.uk or find “Sun Savers” in the app store to get started.
LIDL has recalled batches of microwavable burgers over fears that they could trigger a serious allergic reaction.
The Speedfeast quarter pounder with cheese is made with sesame, eggs and milk, which isn’t included on the label due to a packaging error.
It means that shoppers who are allergic to the ingredients may eat the burgers without knowing that it can cause them to suffer.
In the UK, around one in 100 people are allergic to sesame, according to NHS stats, and can suffer reactions such as rashes, an itchy throat, hives and vomiting.
In the worst cases, it can cause someone to go into anaphylaxis.
This is an extreme allergic reaction that can cause the throat and mouth to swell, severe asthma and unconsciousness.
Your product recall rights
PRODUCT recalls are an important means of protecting consumers from dangerous goods.
As a general rule, if a recall involves a branded product, the manufacturer would usually have lead responsibility for the recall action.
But it’s often left up to supermarkets to notify customers when products could put them at risk.
If you are concerned about the safety of a product you own, always check the manufacturer’s website to see if a safety notice has been issued.
When it comes to appliances, rather than just food items, the onus is usually on you – the customer – to register the appliance with the manufacturer as if you don’t there is no way of contacting you to tell you about a fault.
If you become aware that an item you own has been recalled or has any safety noticed issued against it, make sure you follow the instructions given to you by the manufacturer.
They should usually provide you with more information and a contact number on its safety notice.
In some cases, the manufacturer might ask you to return the item for a full refund or arrange for the faulty product to be collected.
You should not be charged for any recall work – such as a repair, replacement or collection of the recalled item.
The ingredient is often found in burger buns, which makes it tricky for sufferers to buy baked goods.
One in 20 people in the UK are allergic to eggs, while a cow’s milk is the third most common food product to cause anaphylaxis, according to AllergyUK.
Customers who are known to have an allergy to these types of food are being urged not to eat them
Instead, they should return the mealtime snack to their nearest store in exchange for a full refund. You don’t need to bring the receipt.
Burgers that are affected by the recall have a best before date of August 23 2019.
The packs weigh 195g and cost 99p in Lidl stores in England and Wales.
The burgers also contain mustard and wheat, which are also known to trigger allergies, but they are correctly labelled on the packaging.
In a statement issued on the recall notice, the retailer said: “Other Speedfeast products are not affected by this recall.
“Lidl GB wishes to apologise for any inconvenience caused.
“Any customers with queries or concerns can contact customer services on 03704441234.”
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Shoppers with an allergy to sesame should be steer clear of batches of Tesco cheese burgers because they haven’t declared the ingredient on the packaging.
A post shared by Mark Ferris (@markyyferris) on Jul 28, 2019 at 6:19am PDT
A box of six nuggets has 290 calories, meaning they have slightly more chicken pieces than a classic six piece box which has 259 calories.
The new nugs were spotted at Y Not in Derbyshire where 1,000 lucky festival goers got the change to try them, including YouTube star Mark Ferris.
On a post on Instagram he said: “It may be cold @ynotfestival but @mcdonaldsuk are turning up the I’ve been given exclusive access to the new Spicy Nugget van! You will NOT be disappointed Launching in the UK soon! Keep your peeled”.