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RCGP criticises ‘regressive’ plans to charge migrants for NHS

RCGP chair Professor Clare Gerada has issued a stinging critique of the Government’s plans to charge migrants to access GP services, saying the implications for public health were ‘very real’.

Professor Gerada said that the plans would make GPs a ‘new border agency’ and would make migrants less likely to seek care at an early stage, leading to more use of specialist care and increasing admissions to emergency departments.

She joins the BMA and international doctors’ groups in heavily criticising the plans for non-resident migrants from outside the EU to either opt in and pay a new levy of between £200 and £500 per year upon entering the country, or pay for all primary care treatment up front.

In a statement, Professor Gerada said: ‘We think that this regressive policy has been prematurely put out to consultation without due consideration of the potential implications.

‘As we have said from the outset, GPs must not become a new border agency in policing the NHS. Limiting access to NHS services will fundamentally change one of the founding principles of general practice - that healthcare is free at the point of need.’

“The implications for public health are very real. This will inevitably deter people from seeking medical help in the early stages of illness when they can be dealt with cost-effectively and efficiently in primary care, rather than requiring expensive specialist care and increasing admissions to emergency departments.’

Professor Gerada further added that GPs could not be asked to ‘police’ migration status of patients in addition to their already pressing workload.

She said: ‘We also strongly oppose the extra administrative responsibilities for GPs and practice staff that would be created as a result of these proposals, which will impact on all patients. GPs are already working record hours - some making up to 60 patient contacts in a single day - and facing increasing responsibilities which are not being met with sufficient resources.’

‘These proposals outlined in this consultation would both compound the already unsustainable pressures facing GPs and practice staff and limit the ability of GPs to protect and promote the health of their patients and the public.’

As reported by Pulse earlier today, the BMA said Government plans to charge migrants a ‘levy’ for using the NHS are unworkable and would put more pressure on already overstretched GPs.

The Government’s consultation on their plans to charge non-resident migrants from outside the EU a levy to use the NHS is closing later today.

Click here to read RCGP’s full submission to the consultation