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No sanction for GPs who refuse to treat US or Canadian patients

By Steve Nowottny

The GMC has said it will not take action against GPs who refuse to treat American nationals living in the UK.

Fears that they could be sued in US court if things go wrong, has prompted some GPs to refuse to treat US citizens, despite reassurances from The Medical Protection Society that such a scenario is highly unlikely.

But Pulse has learnt that the GMC's Fitness to Practice Directorate turned down a complaint from an American citizen who claimed he had been discriminated against because of his nationality when he was refused treatment.

Dr Stephen Robinson, who has Anglo-American dual nationality, complained after he was forced to withdraw from two charity trips because the accompanying GP said they were not covered to treat him.

But he was told by the GMC that its remit ‘does not cover law enforcement' and no action would be taken.

Last August Pulse reported some GPs refuse to treat American and Canadian patients because medical insurance companies do not provide indemnity cover for action brought in a North American court - even if it relates to treatment in the UK.

Dr Robinson told Pulse: ‘It would be nice if the GMC could reassure its members that the possibility of being litigated against in the US unless you're practising in the US is almost non-existent.'

A GMC spokesperson said: ‘GMC guidance states that doctors must take out adequate insurance or professional indemnity cover for any part of their practice not covered by an employer's indemnity scheme.'

She refused to comment on the case or say how many similar complaints had been received or where GPs could obtain specialist insurance cover.

Dr Hameed Din, a GP in Billericay, Essex, who stopped treating American and Canadian patients last summer over the concerns, said he had received no clear guidance from the GMC.

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