Political figures in Bury have condemned Rishi Sunak’s plan to charge patients for missing NHS appointments.

The Conservative leadership candidate said he would put in place a 'temporary' measure to charge patients for missed NHS appointments.

The former Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is up against Liz Truss to become the next Prime Minister, said patients would be given “the benefit of the doubt” after one missed appointment, but charged £10 for each missed slot thereafter.

The measure is intended to clear the NHS Covid backlog.

A record 6.6m people are waiting for hospital care in England, according to NHS data, published monthly. 

As of March 2022 more, than 1,200 patients in Bury had been waiting for hospital treatment for more than a year.

In response to the proposal, Bury North MP James Daly told the Bury Times that he acknowledged missed GP appointments in Bury were “a real problem” but said the policy “as it is now, is a blunt instrument.”

Mr Daly said: “I think we should take seriously any proposal that’s trying to ensure than people get access to GP appointments at the earliest possible opportunity.

“I don’t want to charge in this situation because its very difficult to say what your defence to it can be.

“People on low incomes who have legitimate reasons for not being able to get to appointments, to hammer them with £10, that’s a lot on money out of their weekly income.

“But there is a real problem, there’s a real debate to be had about trying to find ways to make sure that the appointments we have face-to-face in Bury, people turn up to them and the widest number of people have the chance to get to those early appointments.

"People missing them for no reason is not acceptable.”

Bury Conservatives leader Cllr Russell Bernstein agreed that charges will hit the most vulnerable in the borough disproportionately.

The council's shadow cabinet member for finance, strategic growth, corporate core and HR said: “While I understand the point Rishi is trying to address, for me, GP and NHS hospital appointments need to be free at the point of entry and the proposal will most likely hit those members of the community who are already facing challenges and will also add to the administrative burden of GP’s and NHS Hospitals.”

Bury South MP Christian Wakefield similarly condemned the policy, saying it demonstrated the “creeping hand of privatisation” in the NHS.

A spokesperson for the Labour MP said: “Health experts from across the board have agreed this would be a terrible idea as does Christian.

“It shows a continual creeping hand of privatisation in the NHS.

“It shows a former Chancellor pandering to his members rather than being prepared for the task ahead.

“Christian is against charging patients for missing appointments.

“There can be many different factors as to why people miss appointments and merely acts to punish those well off.

“This acts as a de facto 'health tax' and shows again the Tories willingness to charge people through the nose during a cost-of-living crisis.”