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GPs must not be new 'border agency' in policing access to the NHS, says Gerada

The Government announced plans today to reduce immigrants’ access to the NHS, provoking warnings from GP leaders that GPs must not be a ‘border agency’ in policing access to health services.

The Immigration Bill, announced in the Queen’s Speech, will reform immigration law, including provisions to strengthen enforcement powers and protect public services. As part of this, it will ‘regulate migrant access to the NHS, ensuring that temporary migrants make a contribution’, Government documents said.

But RCGP chair Professor Clare Gerada warned that the Bill may come with unintended consequences for both GPs and patients. She urged the Government to ensure GPs will not be responsible for carrying out checks for migration status on their patients.

She said: ‘GPs must not be a new ‘border agency’ in policing access to the NHS. Whilst the health system must not be abused and we must bring an end to health tourism, it is important that we do not overestimate the problem and that GPs are not placed in the invidious position of being the new border agency.’

‘General practice must remain the main access to health care within the NHS. GPs have a duty of care to all people seeking healthcare, and should not be expected to police access to healthcare and turn people away when they are at their most vulnerable. It is important to protect individuals and public health.’

Click here to read more about the Government’s legislative plans

Readers' comments (10)

  • Of course GP's should stop access to healthcare if the patient is not eligilbe. They are spending taxpayers money on behalf of society so they should check a patient is entitled to receive it just has happens in most other countries.

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  • Anonymous 2:40 PM could you perhaps outline how I am expected to make a check that someone is entitled to treatment when they present with an acute problem. Could you define the universal form of identification carried by everyone which allows me to identify those who make a contribution and are entitled. Or perhaps you could tell me which groups of patients I should target my questioning towards. I would suggest that this not something I am trained to do. I am not trained in immigration law or assessment, I am trained as a doctor. And let's not forget that the government and their agencies do not know how many people are here illegally anyway.

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  • On a recent visit from Canada where we live we had to use the NHS. I informed the said hospital we would need to pay and our insurance would cover the cost as there was no reciprocal coverage for residents of Canada. The hospital were unable to charge us and basically let us off much to my surprise.....
    Also it appeared to me that when working in the UK up to 2011 if a patient didn't have a NHS number when registering with a DR they filled the form out this was sent away with no ID etc and then they would be allocated one....once obtained the NHS was free for their use.....if central NHS admin have no system for checking and hospitals unable to claim charges from ineligible patients not sure how GPs can police this.

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  • I feel very priveledged to be a currently practicing GP as it is now more clear to me the actual power that we in the profession actually hold. It is a little disappointing that it has taken 25 years in practice to realise this !.
    It is clear that the ploiticians feel we can simply 'fix' the A+E pressures by doing more. Unfortunately the rhetoric they spill out is lacking in ant specifics other than defunding any cure. Reference to more being done in the community is not a revealtion to any GP - actually making it happen is where the problem lies. It is the holders of the purse strings who can effect a change and not hard the hard working masses. Now despite years of unacceptable behaviour in the Borders agency - and yet another political football -it seems that it is GPs to the rescue. I wonder what other problems will emerge that will manage to be stuck under the GP umbrella for correction??.
    I simply wish the MPs would take some responsibility and accountability for our current position and try to work with the profession rather than attempting to blame it.
    By the way we still hold a much higher level of public trust aand confidence than any MP . Wake up guys , work with us and maybe some good can be achieved.

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  • This is another strong argument for having ID cards.Different cards for different categories of residents.The cards are issued by the Home Office and whenever a patient walks in to a hospital or GP surgery they scan their card and if they're not entitled to anything they are prevented further access.

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  • Unless the government wishes to change it's legistlation, we are duty obliged to see any patient who are staying and intending to call UK as their "country of residence".

    This vague definition will make it impossible for any immigration officer, nevermind the GPs, to tackle this issue.

    Another Spin from Mr Hunt to damage the primary care more like.

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  • Annon 9:40

    Making it happen is now the job of GP's. Thats what CCG's have been created to do as the government seems to think you know how to solve the problems. Good luck

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  • Looking forward as a GP to having to determine patients entitlements and having to issue the identity cards !!
    Probably some money already in the global sum !!

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  • Well we're already doing the government's dirty work in supporting a sickness culture amongst the millions of malingerers out there just to keep the unemployment figures artificially low.Now we can become surrogate immigration officers as well!

    I truly despair for general practice in this country.Its as if the doctors have all been castrated unable to take any effectual stand whilst we get more and more crap dumped upon us.

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  • Professor Clare Gerada should be protecting primary care and the NHS from abuse and fraud. UK GPs should not be expected to see any tourist from around the world for free!!

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