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Independents' Day

Overseas visitor demands hospital investigation

Q...The mother of one of our patients has just arrived from her home in Libya for a holiday. She has a number of pre-existing medical conditions and is insisting I accept her on my GMS list and I refer her to hospital for investigations and treatment under the NHS. Am I obliged to do so?

This patient is not ordinarily resident and is therefore not entitled to free NHS treatment. If you believe she has come to this country specifically to take advantage of free NHS treatment then HSC 1999/018 makes it clear it is particularly appropriate to offer private medical treatment.

However, you do have a professional obligation, in addition to a requirement under the terms of service, to provide immediately necessary treatment free of charge within your practice area, regardless of the patient's nationality or residence.

In this context essential treatment is treatment that cannot be reasonably delayed until the patient returns to their home country and includes treatment of a pre-existing condition that has become exacerbated while in this country.

The patient would not be entitled to free hospital investigation or treatment unless this was essential for her immediately necessary care.

Neither Pulse nor Wessex LMCs can accept any legal liability in respect of the answers given. Readers should seek independent advice before acting on the information concerned.

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