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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Patients expect care ­ not to be interrogated

How can GPs be expected to check eligibility for NHS treatment ('Consultants accuse GPs of conniving in NHS tourism', News, June 2)?

Our area of London has a very ethnically diverse population. Our patients regularly turn up with family members who are 'visiting for a few months' or who they claim have moved to the UK to live with them. These people are often elderly, speak no English and have complex medical histories requiring extensive investigation and expensive treatment.

The patients they come with are often unemployed, on benefits and clearly not able to afford private treatment for their relatives.

In addition we currently have 200-300 sets of notes of people who registered, claiming to be resident in the UK, were seen once or twice then disappeared. They have not registered elsewhere in the UK, so we assume they have returned to their home country (usually Africa) having taken advantage of the NHS while on holiday here.

The immigration system is very complex, many people have right of residence without having a British passport. Inquiring of everybody if they have the right to NHS treatment would cause even more stress for GPs and be detrimental to the relationship with our patients who expect care and sympathy, not interrogation.

Dr P Critchley

Camberwell, south London

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