Photography: Anthony Devlin/PA
GPs could write cash receipts out of energy bills for the most vulnerable under a plan drawn up by the Treasury, as Liz Truss’ team signaled more help with costs now forecast to reach £6,000 next year.
The unusual proposal would mean that people could see their doctor to assess whether they are struggling enough to need help with their bills.
Related: NHS bosses warn of ‘humanitarian crisis’ unless government takes action on energy costs
A senior government source said the GP plan was “something we are
interested in looking”, albeit a “long road to completion”.
The idea first reported in the Sun on Sunday was dismissed by shadow health secretary Wes Streeting, saying that conservatives have “missed the plot on the cost-of-living crisis and have no idea the level of pressure on the NHS”. . It would likely be resisted by overworked doctors.
The latest forecasts by energy consultants Auxilione suggested that energy prices could exceed £6,000 a year for the average family next year. Ofgem, the regulator, is expected to raise the maximum price from £1,971 to £3,576 this week.
Truss, the top contender for No. 10 next month, hinted in an interview with the Sun on Sunday that she was prepared to support people with high bills, having previously said she was not in favor of “donations.” She said every government “needs to make sure life is affordable for people” and she is seeking help “at all levels”, including businesses.
In comments that suggest she can provide targeted support for lower wages and tax cuts to others, the foreign minister said she would not “take the handout first” before looking at the causes of the skyrocketing energy bills. She said: “What I’m really opposed to is taking people’s money in taxes and then returning the money in benefits. It makes no sense to me.
“So that’s why I support keeping taxes low, making the economy work, growing our economy, dealing with supply problems.”
She added: “Now, of course, in the budget, every government has to make sure that life is affordable for the people. But what is wrong is picking up the flyer first before addressing the root cause of a problem.”
Of small businesses, many of which are seeing energy prices soar exponentially, she said: “I’m very, very aware that it’s not just customers or consumers that are experiencing energy pricing issues, it’s small businesses.”
She also played down the prospect of a recession, despite the economy shrinking 0.6% in the last quarter.
“There’s a lot of talk that there’s going to be a recession,” she said. “I don’t believe this is inevitable. We can unlock opportunities here in Britain.”
Kwasi Kwarteng, his most likely choice as chancellor, also gave an interview to the Mail on Sunday saying “help is coming”.
Truss’s leading rival Rishi Sunak previously said he would give around £10bn in aid to offset the rising cost of gas and electricity.
The Treasury did not deny that there were discussions about the role of GPs in deciding whether people should get help with their energy bills.
A government spokesperson said: “We know that rising prices are causing significant challenges for families, which is why we continually act to help families, providing support worth £37bn over the course of the year, which includes specific support to help people through the difficult winter ahead…
“We are making the necessary preparations to ensure that a new government has options to provide additional support as soon as possible.”