Consultants accuse GPs of conniving in NHS tourism
Consultants have accused GPs of promoting NHS tourism by 'conniving with patients' from overseas who are flocking to the UK for free care.
In a report published last week, unnamed consultants also branded GPs 'less than honest' for allowing foreign visitors, illegal immigrants and bogus asylum seekers to use NHS services without checking their status.
The consultants claimed GPs are allowing patients to register for free when they should be charged and are then referring them to hospital with an NHS number entitling them to free treatment.
GPs angrily rejected the accusations, contained in the paper, No System To Abuse, published by the Centre for Policy Studies think-tank.
The paper, partly based on interviews with GPs and consultants, argues NHS tourism is growing because 'gatekeepers' to the NHS cannot stop the influx of patients from overseas.
Dr Ambady Gopinathan, chair of Newham LMC and a GP in Plaistow, east London, dismissed the claims as nonsense. 'There are quite a number of patients who are asylum seekers who are ill and are eligible even if their final status is to be proved,' he said.
'If consultants are that concerned they should check in hospital whether patients are eligible or not. Our duty is not to check whether they are genuine asylum seekers. It's to give them treatment.'
Guidance from the BMA and Department of Health says GPs must offer free treatment to asylum seekers with proven refugee status or while an application is processed.
Dr Karim Janmohamed, co-chair of Greenwich LMC, said: 'If the patient says they have moved to your area and need treatment you are in no position to deny that.'
Other GPs said they asked for documentation from ref-uges and asylum seekers to check if they were eligible.
Dr Mickey Adagra, chair of Bexley LMC and a GP in Belvedere, Kent, said his practice asked for patients' passports, visa numbers and asylum documentation to prove eligibility. 'There is not a single GP who would be colluding in such a way, for the simple reason it would put the waiting time back for our own patients,' he said.
A London primary care trust reprimanded GPs in January for asking for documentation from refugees and asylum seekers, according to the Centre for Policy Studies.