The nature of certain professions or specialties registered with the HPCSA may make it difficult for practitioners to sustain their practice if patients do not honour their appointments. As a result, some practitioners charge patients for failing to arrive for their appointments.
There has been some confusion on the ethical basis of this practice. There is currently no ethical rule prohibiting practitioners from charging patients for failing to honour their appointments. The practice of charging for a no-show is well articulated in Section 17 of the Consumer Protection Act: a consumer has the right to cancel any advance booking reservation or order for any goods or services to be supplied. It states that a supplier who makes a commitment or accepts a reservation to supply goods or services may impose a reasonable charge for cancellation of the order or reservation, and a charge is unreasonable if it exceeds a fair amount in the circumstances, taking into account:
This Act further states that a supplier may not impose any cancellation fee in respect of a booking, reservation or order if the consumer is unable to honour the booking, reservation or order because of the death or hospitalisation of the person for whom or for whose benefit the booking, reservation or order was made. In view of this, the Medical and Dental Professions Board has reviewed its ethical ruling of October 2001 and ruled on this matter as follows:
A patient reserves the right to cancel a medical or dental appointment, and a medical or dental practitioner may not charge a consultation fee or a procedure fee for such a cancelled appointment unless:
The HPCSA advises practitioners who have a cancellation or no-show policy to inform their patients at the time of booking that there will be charges incurred for failing to arrive for an appointment.