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GPs fight plans to deny NHS care to failed asylum seekers

Inner city GPs are leading a campaign to block Government proposals to deny hundreds of thousands of failed asylum seekers access to primary care.

More than 500 doctors have signed an online petition backing the campaign, while 79 MPs including former Health Secretary Frank Dobson have lent their support. Campaigners argue that denying failed asylum seekers access to GPs would contravene human rights legislation.

Decisions on whether to provide non-emergency treatment to failed asylum seekers are currently left to GPs' discretion. But under a Department of Health consultation due to start in the Spring, this discretion is expected to be removed.

Dr Jonathan Fluxman, a GP in Paddington in London and a coordinator of the Medical Justice for Asylum Seekers campaign, said: ‘If these proposals become mandatory, it will put GPs in direct conflict with their Hippocratic Oath.

‘In practice, it could mean a GP being forced to deny treatment to an asylum seeker having an epileptic fit in the doctor's surgery and having to refer that individual to an accident and emergency department for treatment.'

Casualty units could become over-loaded with vulnerable people denied access to primary care with lives put at risk as a result, he added.

The BMA has already warned of GPs being placed in an ethical dilemma.

But a Home Office spokesman said: "No definite proposals have been put forward."

A Department of Health spokeswoman refused to say whether asylum-seekers would definitely be excluded from primary care. ‘A review of access to the NHS by foreign nationals is due to be completed shortly and will go out to full public consultation in the Spring,' she said.

The review would consider ‘primary care settings' and ‘looks in particular at the eligibility of failed asylum-seekers and their children to receive treatment', she added.

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