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.’