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GPs have to make NHS tourist checks

Practices will have to check the eligibility of new patients for free treatment under Government plans to eliminate NHS 'tourism'.

In a consultation document released last week, the Department of Health admits the move could put an extra burden on practices.

But it said this would be eased by the introduction of a national ID card in 2007/8.

Until then, new patients would have to present to practices with either a modified self-certified application for free services, their NHS card, valid work permit or proof of study.

Under the proposals for England, GPs could also set their own private fees for treating patients who are not eligible for free care.

The plan for GPs to set their own charges is one of two options put forward, but the Department of Health signalled a preference for it in the document.

It said the alternative – for the NHS to set a charging structure for all practices to use, similar to that used by hospitals – would be more bureaucratic.

GPC member Dr Fay Wilson, a GP in Birmingham, said giving GPs the right to set a fee was fairer as some practices may be inundated with ineligible patients.

'If you have to engage staff to do something, that has to be reflected in the charges,' she said. 'This must be taken on by GPs as part of the costs of running a business.'

The consultation period lasts for four months.

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