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Government criticises GPs over hip referrals

Doctors should be allowed to treat patients who are not eligible for free care and who do not fulfil the criteria for 'immediately necessary' treatment, according to the BMA.

In a response to Government plans to introduce an ID card system, the association said doctors needed some flexibility to decide whether to treat vulnerable patients such as failed asylum seekers.

Failure to treat such patients, even if they did not require emergency treatment, could prove more expensive for the NHS if their condition deteriorated, it warned.

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, BMA head of science and ethics, said it was not opposed to an ID card system and it may provide an 'unbureaucratic' way for GPs to assess eligibility for health care.

But she added the Government had yet to demonstrate the extent of fraudulent use of the NHS.

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