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Migrant worker growth putting strain on GP practices

By Gareth Iacobucci

GPs have called for more funding to cope with the surge in the number of EU migrants registering at their practices.

Some surgeries have reported huge rises in list sizes, due to new patients arriving from Eastern Europe.

One GP in Peterborough this week claimed 1,000 new immigrant patients had registered at his practice in the past six months alone.

Recent figures from the Home Office show that 683,000 eastern European workers had been registered to work between May 2004 and June 2007, with East Anglia, the Midlands, London and the North East most affected by the surge.

GPs claim they are losing money for each patient they register due to inaccurate calculations of population growth, and the fact that the MPIG Correction Factor is not currently adjusted for growth in list size.

Practices are particularly concerned that additional patients are only funded in accordance with the Global Sum Allocation Formula, which, although adequate for small increases in list size, is not sufficient for the exceptional increases being seen in some areas.

A BBC documentary, screened this week, reported an unprecedented growth in list size at GP surgeries in Peterborough, one of a number of areas that has seen a large influx of Eastern European workers due to the number of light industry and unskilled agricultural jobs available.

Dr Jitendra Modha, a GP in Peterborough, told the programme his practice had registered a thousand new patients from Eastern Europe in six months.

Dr Michael Kennedy, a fellow GP in the city, told Pulse his practice's list size had grown by ‘thousands' in the past four years, and said the register had increased from ‘2,000 in 2000 to almost 10,000 in 2008', predominantly due to the arrival of asylum seekers and Eastern European migrants.

He said immigration had brought economic benefits to Peterborough, but said his practice had lost money from taking on so many patients, and called for a review of national funding for areas with high population growth.

‘We make a loss on each patient we register,' he said.

‘Let's say we take on 1500 patients, we will get paid £57 per patient by the PCT. It would cost us more than that per patient to actually provide the care. There is no additional funding from central Government for surplus population. It's mathematical nonsense. The only solution to this is a central Government one.'

Dr Neil Crowley, a GP in Ealing, West London, said some practices in his area felt ‘swamped' by the high numbers of Eastern European workers registering.

He said: ‘In our practice, there's been a few hundred but it hasn't been a problem. But other practices feel swamped. They have definitely noticed an increase in workload, and feel they are doing more work for less.'

A DH spokesperson said: ‘DH is aware of some anecdotal evidence regarding increased numbers of EU migrants accessing GP services. The funding formula used to make payments to GP's includes a significant element for capitation (the global sum). The global sum will increase as patient list sizes increase. Any practice that encounters difficulties related to increased requests for registration should talk to their PCT.'

Polish newspapers

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